Activities & Lessons: Structural Challenges
Activity Challenge Grade
Source Time Special
Arch: Can you figure out the key to the keystone? Arches & Compression 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 45 min. n/a
*Column: Can you stand on paper cups without crushing them? Forces & Loads 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 30 min. n/a
Shapes of Strength: Using only paper, straws, tape, and paper clips, create structures that can support the weight of at least one textbook. Shapes & Strength 3-4, 5-6 Teach Engineering 40 min. n/a
*Strongest Shape: Test four paper shapes. Which is the strongest? Shapes & Strength 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 30 min. n/a
*Under Pressure: How great is the water pressure? Water Pressure 3-4, 5-6 Building Big 45 min. n/a
Under Pressure: Support a book with a sheet of paper? Give your paper a workout and make it stronger! Shapes & Strength 3-4, 5-6 FETCH! 45 min. n/a
Arch Bridge: How do the abutments support an arch bridge? Arches & Compression 5-6, 7-8 NOVA 45 min. n/a
Bridge Types: Tensile & Compressive Forces - Locate compressive and tensile forces acting on various types of bridges. Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 45 min. Per group: 10 ft. string, 11 ft rope
*Columns: Can a toilet paper tube support your weight? Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Building Big 30 min. Toilet paper tubes, collected in advance
Critical Load: Learn how to reinforce the design of a structure to hold more weight. Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Try Engineering 45 min. n/a
Hang In There: What’s the strongest cable? Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Building Big 30 min. n/a
Load It Up! Test the maximum load that bridge piers can withstand. Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 45 min. Per group: scale. Per team: modeling clay pieces (2x2x 3 in); high-density h foam, about 11 ft. .x 1-2-in. thick
Shake It Up! Engineering for Seismic Waves: Design and build shake tables to test the ability of buildings to withstand earthquakes. Stability 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 2 hour For leader: a shake table, using a variable speed drill (instructions for building included); Per group of builders: shoebox, wooden board (sized to fit in the bottom of shoebox with room to move in all directions), 10 marbles, hot glue gun
Shallow & Deep Foundations: Students investigate the differences between shallow and deep foundations. Stability 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 1 hour Per group: wood working tools: drill, drill bits, and a saw, and a scale. Per group of builders: cardboard box (12x12x12 in.); potting or top soil (about 2 gallons); rocks or pebbles (10 cups); sand (about 1.25 gallons); wood block (2x2x1 in. deep); ½-in at least 12.5 in. long.
Shapes That Make Structures Strong: Study the various shapes engineers choose to make structures strong. Shapes & Strength 5-6, 7-8 Teacher’s Domain 3 45-min. sessions n/a
*Straw Shapes: Which shape is more stable, a triangle or square? Shapes & Strength 5-6, 7-8 Building Big 30 min. n/a
The Squeeze is On: Learn about the force of compression and how it acts on structural components. Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 100 min. Per group: Several cinder blocks (or uniform text books, piece of wood
Tug-Push-Twist-O’War: Hold a tug-push-twist-o'war to find out which materials can best withstand different forces. Forces & Loads 5-6, 7-8 Building Big 30 min. Each team will pick 3 samples of 6 materials: yarn, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, clay, sponges, erasers, rubber bands, paper-towel tubes, pencils, cardboard, aluminum foil, straws, tiles, or cloth

*Indicates whether an activity is suitable for a community event. Activities considered appropriate for a large-scale community event are attention-grabbing but simple; use inexpensive materials; require minimal instruction, supervision, and cleanup; and can be modified to take place over a short period of time (about 15-20 minutes).