Miniature Concrete Hoover Dam Is Tiny Engineering Done Right

Growing up, we got to play with all kinds of things in miniature. Cars, horses, little LEGO houses, the lot. What we didn’t get is a serious education with miniature-sized dams. This recreation of the glorious Hoover Dam from the [Creative Construction Channel] could change all that for the next generation.

The build starts with the excavation of a two-foot long curve in a replica riverbed. A cardboard base is installed in the ditch, and used as a base for vertical steel wires. Next, the arch of the dam is roughed out with more steel wires installed horizontally to create a basic structure. The cardboard is then be removed from the riverbed, with the steel structure remaining. It’s finally time to pour real concrete, with a foundation followed by the main pour into foam formwork. The dam is also given 3D printed outlets that can be opened to allow water to pass through — complete with small gear motors to control them. The structure even gets a little roadway on top for good measure.

The finished product is quite impressive, and even more so when the outlets open up to spill water through. Such a project would be great fun for high school science students, or even engineering undergrads. Who doesn’t want to play with a miniature scale dam, after all? Bonus points if you build an entire LEGO city downstream, only to see it destroyed in a flood.

13 thoughts on “Miniature Concrete Hoover Dam Is Tiny Engineering Done Right

  1. Ditches!

    I also own a ditch…It’s not a creek, though it is a flood hazard.
    Every time it goes dry (about every 10 years on average), I photograph it. The last thing you want to have on your land is a ‘navigable waterway’. G.D. feds love to redefine terms to maximize their power.

    For example: If the ditch this was built in didn’t regularly go dry, it’s a USA federal felony. Though they will likely settle for taking your land and bankrupting you.

      1. I agree with HaHa completely. And I’ll even throw the state government into the mix.

        Throughout all human history, people never got their hunting licenses, were way over the bag limit, and hunted out of season to boot.

        George Washington didn’t register his boat before crossing the Delaware.

        The EPA was never consulted before all the mills were built.

        Zoning and building permits. Enough said.

  2. This is a model of the Hoover Dam. But It doesn’t seem to have replicated the spillways that tear themselves apart when they’re used.

    Not so fun fact: The Hoover Dam spillways have been used just two times. The first was soon after the damn was finished. The water was allowed to fill up to the point where it would go through the spillway tunnels. Huge chunks of concrete lining were ripped from the walls. Repairs were made but the spillways were not tested again.

    Then in the 1980’s there was a very wet time and the reservoir was rising to levels not seen since the spillway test. The excess had to go down the tunnels. Again they had huge chunks of concrete torn out.

    The spillways were completely relined, using the latest flow modeling technology, high strength concrete, and polishing the surface of the lining. But the people who did all that weren’t confident enough to test their work. The spillways have not been used since the second repair.

    The movie Cherry 2000 featured a sequence shot at the Hoover Dam during the second spillway repair. How they got government permission to fire rockets, set off explosives, and dangle a Mustang from a crane over the dam and river has to be quite a tale. I don’t know if lowering the car into one of the spillway tunnels was real or model work.

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