Students groups use balsa wood and glue to build their own towers using some of the techniques they learned from the associated lesson. While general guidelines are provided, give students freedom with their designs and encourage them to implement what they have learned about structural engineering. The winning team design is the tower with the highest strength-to-weight ratio.
Students identify different bridge designs and construction materials used in modern day engineering. They work in construction teams to create paper bridges and spaghetti bridges based on existing bridge designs. Students progressively realize the importance of the structural elements in each bridge. They also measure vertical displacements under the center of the spaghetti bridge span when a load is applied. Vertical deflection is measured using a LEGO MINDSTORMS(TM) NXT intelligent brick and ultrasonic sensor. As they work, students experience tension and compression forces acting on structural elements of the two bridge prototypes. In conclusion, students discuss the material properties of paper and spaghetti and compare bridge designs with performance outcomes.
This unit provides the framework for conducting an “engineering design field day” that combines 6 hands-on engineering activities into a culminating school (or multi-school) competition. The activities are a mix of design and problem-solving projects inspired by real-world engineering challenges: kite making, sail cars, tall towers, strong towers and a ball and tools obstacle course. The assortment of events engage children who have varied interests and cover a range of disciplines such as aerospace, mechanical and civil engineering. An optional math test—for each of grades 1-6—is provided as an alternative activity to incorporate into the field day event. Of course, the 6 activities in this unit also are suitable to conduct as standalone activities that are unaffiliated with a big event.
- Material Type:
- Unit of Study
- Provider Set:
- Alexander Kon
- Alisa Lee
- Andrew Palermo
- Christopher Langel
- Destiny Garcia
- Duff Harold
- Eric Anderson
- Jean Vandergheynst
- Jeff Kessler
- Josh Claypool
- Kelley Hestmark
- Lauren Jabusch
- Nadia Richards
- Sara Pace
- Tiffany Tu
- Travis Smith
- Date Added:
Students gain a basic understanding of the engineering components behind telecommunications, in particular, the way telephone communication works to link one phone to another for conventional landline and cellular telephones. During this entire-class activity, students simulate how phone calls are connected by acting out a variety of searches for both local and long-distance calls. Students end up with a good understanding of how phone calls are transmitted from callers to recipients.
Will the Leaning Tower of Pisa give way to gravity? In this interview from the NOVA Web site, engineer John Burland relates the difficult job of saving the tower.
Student groups are challenged to design and construct model towers out of newspaper. They are given limited supplies including newspaper, tape and scissors, paralleling the real-world limitations faced by engineers, such as economic restrictions as to how much material can be used in a structure. Students aim to build their towers for height and stability, as well as the strength to withstand a simulated lateral "wind" load.
Working individually or in pairs, students compete to design, create, test and redesign free-standing, weight-bearing towers using Kapla(TM) wooden blocks. The challenge is to build the tallest tower while meeting the design criteria and minimizing the amount of material used all within a time limit. Students experiment with different geometric shapes used in structural designs and determine how design choices affect the height and strength of structures, becoming comfortable with the concepts of structural members and modeling.
Students learn about material reuse by designing and building the strongest and tallest towers they can, using only recycled materials. They follow design constraints and build their towers to withstand earthquake and high wind simulations.
Looking for a fun and engaging way for your students to work on collaboration and using the engineering design process? STEM Challenge: Marshmallow Tower is for you! Simple and cheap materials and little prep required.
Skyscrapers are one of the most glorified products of Civil Engineering and contain an interesting history of progress and development. In this lesson, the students will learn about the history of the world's tallest free standing structures and the basic design principles behind their success. Students will build their own newspaper skyscrapers with limited materials and time, trying to achieve a maximum height and the ability to withstand a "hurricane wind" force. Discussion will concentrate on materials, forces that a skyscraper needs to withstand, and basic structural design.
Students learn about civil engineers and work through each step of the engineering design process in two mini-activities that prepare them for a culminating challenge to design and build the tallest straw tower possible, given limited time and resources. First they examine the profiles of the tallest 20 towers in the world. Then in the first mini-activity (one-straw tall tower), student pairs each design a way to keep one straw upright with the least amount of tape and fewest additional straws. In the second mini-activity (no "fishing pole"), the pairs determine the most number of straws possible to construct a vertical straw tower before it bends at 45 degrees—resembling a fishing pole shape. Students learn that the taller a structure, the more tendency it has to topple over. In the culminating challenge (tallest straw tower), student pairs apply what they have learned and follow the steps of the engineering design process to create the tallest possible model tower within time, material and building constraints, mirroring the real-world engineering experience of designing solutions within constraints. Three worksheets are provided, for each of two levels, grades K-2 and grades 3-5. The activity scales up to school-wide, district or regional competition scale.
Students work together in small groups, while competing with other teams, to explore the engineering design process through a tower building challenge. They are given a set of design constraints and then conduct online research to learn basic tower-building concepts. During a two-day process and using only tape and plastic drinking straws, teams design and build the strongest possible structure. They refine their designs, incorporating information learned from testing and competing teams, to create stronger straw towers using fewer resources (fewer straws). They calculate strength-to-weight ratios to determine the winning design.
This unit consists of five lessons encouraging younger learners to engineer increasingly better towers using blocks and recycled materials. Each 30 minute lesson ("phase") includes goals, discussion, activity instructions, extensions, and student worksheets.
Phase 1: Paper Cut-Outs Activity
Phase 2: Building Blocks Activity
Phase 3: Number of Blocks Activity
Phase 4: Building within a Space Activity
Phase 5: Recycled Tower Activity
NGSS: K-2-ETS1-1, K-2-ETS1-2, K-2-ETS1-3
Common Core ELA: RI.2.1, W.2.6, W.2.8, SL.2.5
Common Core Math: MP.2, MP.4, MP.5, 2.MD.D.10
Towers have been a part of developed society for centuries, serving a variety of purposes, from watch towers to modern cell towers. In this activity, student groups design and build three types of towers (guyed or cable-supported, free-standing or self-standing, and monopole), engineering them to meet the requirements that they hold an egg one foot high for 15 seconds.
In this activity, students learn about creating a design directly from a CAD (computer-aided design) program. They will design a tower in CAD and manufacture the parts with a laser cutter. A competition determines the tower design with the best strength:weight ratio. Students also investigate basic structural truss concepts and stress concentrations. Partnership with a local college or manufacturing center is necessary for the completion of this project.
Students reinforce an antenna tower made from foam insulation so that it can withstand a 480 N-cm bending moment (torque) and a 280 N-cm twisting moment (torque) with minimal deflection. During one class period, students discuss the problem, run the initial bending and torsion tests and graph the results. During the following class periods, students design, construct and test sturdier towers, and graph the results.