Steel Teaching Tree

On November 30, a new tree was planted at Beamish-Munro Hall – a tree made entirely of steel. The tree, called a Steel Teaching Aid, will help the next generation of engineers visualize structures, understand how various components are connected, and appreciate the challenges involved in taking a concept on paper and turning it into a living structure.

The tree demonstrates some of the most common structural steel components and elements used to build skyscrapers, bridges, office buildings, schools, and hospitals.

In most structures, these elements are covered up or difficult to see. Within Beamish-Munro Hall, many have been left exposed to view. However, each of these visible elements only demonstrates one construction process at a time: the tree demonstrates many, including:

  • wide-flange (I-shaped) beams and columns
  • hollow structural (tubular) sections
  • threaded rods
  • angles
  • channels (C-shapes)
  • truss sections
  • bolts and welds

Benson Steel, a steel fabricator from Bolton, Ontario, generously fabricated the Steel Tree and arranged the installation. The Steel Structures Education Foundation (SSEF), an initiative of the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction, helped to facilitate the Teaching Aid donation. Numerous people at Queen's, including Civil Engineering Professor Colin MacDougall and Queen's Physical Plant Service's Bob Polegato, worked hard to make it a reality.

The idea for the tree originated with Dwane Ellifritt, a professor of engineering at the University of Florida. Since then, the idea has spread throughout North America. Most engineering faculties in Canada with a Civil Engineering department now have a Steel Teaching Aid. Professor Karl Van Dalen, an emeritus professor of Civil Engineering, first had the idea of bringing a Steel Teaching Aid to Queen's.