Bridges and Towers of Disaster

Alright so I’m still at my next blog post this one is going to be about the bridge/tower building project we did in class. One of the great things with this project is we didn’t use any 3D printing. Not that 3D printing has its benefits. But.. when I gave my conference talk earlier this year with the Diocesan conference I said that “3D printing should be used in the proper manner in a classroom meaning it’s a great tool just like virtual reality will be a great tool but you need to use it when it’s needed not just because it’s a tool or a toy.” I think what I’m trying to say is this; 3D printing has its proper place in the curriculum. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. Just because 3D printing is cool and the kids think it’s cool that’s not the point of 3D printing. 3D printing should be used for an educational tool such as helping students learn about modeling and problem solving.

The bridge/tower building project is going to be based on earthquakes and students are going to construct a bridge or tower that can withstand the shaking of a magnitude of 8.5 and 9.2 earthquake. The lesson is coming from the Shaker, Rattle and Roll Earthquake Board and The Towering Toothpick Disaster lab activity. The Towering Toothpick lab is  already created, we purchased both together. The Shaker table is already built and we purchase the table through Sargent Welch. It made it a little easier for us, however it can be expensive so you can find other ways to make a cheaper shaker table. Here are some resources:

Engineering is Elementary

Shake Table

The activity fit perfectly into our curriculum. Students were allowed to use a certain amount of materials to build their towers. Materials included popsicle sticks, toothpicks and wood splints. There were two projects going on at the same time, I had half my classes building Towers and the other half building bridges. The bridge component was a bit different. I used some of the Tower lab to create a background. Bridge builders had a reduced amount of materials. They also had to complete an activity at Bridge to Classroom. This was their background work to the project. Part of their assessment I had my students create a journal on Google Documents for their lab group. Each day they answered questions and summarized their build. Pictures were taken each day and inserted in the journal.

Basically the criteria was set out in the lab activity for the towers, see below:

In addition, your building must meet the following requirements:
Buildings must be 45 cm tall.
Buildings must have 3 stories.
Each story must be 15 cm high.
Each story must have a floor; however, the floor does not have to be solid.
Buildings must have flat roofs.
Buildings cannot have solid walls (instead, the structures should be more like scaffolding).
Building bases (footprints) must be 22.5 x 22.5 cm.

The bridges had different requirements. Most of the criteria related to the materials. However, students were required to have a 30 cm long bridge. They were to follow their design from the website. The bridge component of the project was new. So student feedback on the project would be important to improving it for next.

In my next post I will go over the positives and negatives about the whole project. We are already thinking about what we are going to do next year.   


About rippie77

Science Teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh NC.

Posted on November 27, 2016, in 3D Printing, Class Ideas, Earth Science, Google, STEM. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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