Hands-on Activity: Newspaper Tower
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Today, your engineering design challenge is to design and construct a model tower using only newspaper and tape and scissors. Your team will be given limited supplies and a time limit. The tower must be as tall as you can make it, but also stable enough to stand up to a wind load since it will be built in a hurricane-prone region.
Your task mirrors the challenges that engineers are given in the real world—with objectives, requirements and constraints such as budgets, material limitations and deadlines. An engineering team that can design a structure to meet the objectives with the fewest materials (hence, less cost), is favored over other companies that cannot utilize the given materials as effectively.
When you are brainstorming about your design approach in your teams, think about the real skyscrapers you have seen as inspiration, including the tallest buildings and towers in your home town. What are their shapes? What are their foundations like?
(Move on to provide students with details provided in the Procedure section so that they understand how much material they may use and how much time they have.)
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Several solutions to this design challenge are more obvious that others, although students can definitely surprise you with unexpected designs that work quite well.
With the Students
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Watch that students are careful with the scissors.
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
If students are struggling, consider allowing more time or providing more materials.
If students are struggling for design ideas, suggest they think about tall buildings they may have seen in cities or in their own towns that have cylindrical shapes or large foundations or triangular trusses for support. If necessary, suggest more specifics, such as the idea of rolling the paper for strength and/or using a triangular or wider base.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Concluding Analysis: Have students explain how their towers work to resist the "wind" load, using engineering terms learned from earlier in the lesson, or from other lessons within the curricular unit if applicable.
Results Debriefing: Have students discuss as a class what designs did and did not work and why that was so. Examples of successful design approaches included: triangular base, wide base, small tower surface area, tubes, etc. Examples of unsuccessful design approaches include: large flat surfaces for tower sides, small bases, etc.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have students try building newspaper towers for height only or to support an object. Have them then compare the differences in design between towers designed to hold vertical vs. lateral loads, and between towers that are not designed to hold any weight but their own.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
Building Big. PBS. Accessed June 25, 2004. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/
ContributorsKelly Devereaux and Benjamin Burnham
Copyright© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Duke University
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Techtronics Program, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
This content was developed by the MUSIC (Math Understanding through Science Integrated with Curriculum) Program in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University under National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. DGE 0338262. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.