Twenty-One Elephants

What do twenty-one elephants, a rooster, and an engineer named Emily have in common?

Engineer That, Girl! is an community-based exposition for all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for girls in elementary school or kindergarten through fifth grade.

Jackson has hosted a booth featuring an activity based on construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Future women scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians are able to build a bridge for elephants to safely cross the river!

Why did we choose the Brooklyn Bridge????…Did you know a woman had to finish it?

John A. Roebling was the engineer who originally designed the Brooklyn Bridge. While taking measurements for the bridge in 1869, a ferry crushed his foot. The engineer developed tetanus and died in July 1869.

His son, Washington Augustus Roebling, stepped in as the project’s leading engineer. The younger Roebling developed a problem of his own. To build the structure’s massive foundation, caissons, or sealed chambers that kept the riverbed dry and allowed for digging, were used. Breathing and working deep in the caissons required compressed air. Workers who worked in the caissons were vulnerable to “caisson disease,” better known as the bends.

In 1872, Roebling came down with this sickness and was confined to bed.  Emily Warren Roebling then stepped in. Emily was Washington Roebling’s wife. Although Emily began running orders between her husband, and his workers, she soon took command of the project. Emily oversaw the remaining design and construction of the project.

Emily Warren Roebling is now recognized as a pioneering female engineer. Emily went on to earn a law degree from New York University and published essays in favor of gender equality.  Emily Warren Roebling earned the honor of being the first human to make the trip across the historic bridge. She rode proudly across in a carriage a week before its official opening in front of an audience that included President Chester A. Arthur. Sitting in Emily’s lap all the while was a rooster, a symbol of good luck.

When the Brooklyn Bridge opened over 130 years ago, it was a technological marvel – the longest suspension bridge in the world! – and people didn’t know if they could trust it. A few days after the bridge opened, a rumor that the structure would collapse caused a stampede that killed 12 people. P.T. Barnum, the creator of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, decided to stage a public spectacle to prove the bridge’s structure was strong enough.  In May 1884, he planned a circus in Brooklyn and marched his 21 elephants through Manhattan and across the bridge to Brooklyn!