Hands-on Activity: Three-Tower Types Challenge: Tower Investigation and the Egg

Contributed by: Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

The Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.
Students investigate towers
copyright
Copyright © Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/etihad-towers-abu-dhabi-skyscraper-289975/

Summary

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.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineering designs are subject to requirements and constraints, often including limitations on time, materials and budget, and specifications for size, strength, materials, capacity, etc. Engineers design different types of towers to best suit different purposes.

Learning Objectives

  • Follow the steps of the engineering design process to create an egg holder at the top of tower.
  • Parts of a structure.
  • Types of towers and comparisons.
  • Safe use of tools and machines.
  • Forces that must be taken into consideration when building structures.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • New products and systems can be developed to solve problems or to help do things that could not be done without the help of technology. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • The development of technology is a human activity and is the result of individual and collective needs and the ability to be creative. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design is a creative planning process that leads to useful products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • There is no perfect design. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Requirements for design are made up of criteria and constraints. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design involves a set of steps, which can be performed in different sequences and repeated as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Invention is a process of turning ideas and imagination into devices and systems. Innovation is the process of modifying an existing product or system to improve it. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Some technological problems are best solved through experimentation. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Apply a design process to solve problems in and beyond the laboratory-classroom. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Specify criteria and constraints for the design. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Make two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations of the designed solution. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Test and evaluate the design in relation to pre-established requirements, such as criteria and constraints, and refine as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • The selection of designs for structures is based on factors such as building laws and codes, style, convenience, cost, climate, and function. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify and explain the steps of the engineering design process, i.e., identify the need or problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best possible solution(s), construct a prototype, test and evaluate, communicate the solution(s), and redesign. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Demonstrate methods of representing solutions to a design problem, e.g., sketches, orthographic projections, multiview drawings. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify appropriate materials, tools, and machines needed to construct a prototype of a given engineering design. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Explain how such design features as size, shape, weight, function, and cost limitations would affect the construction of a given prototype. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Describe and explain parts of a structure, e.g., foundation, flooring, decking, wall, roofing systems. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Explain how the forces of tension, compression, torsion, bending, and shear affect the performance of bridges. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • photographs and drawings of example towers, and/or Internet URLs for tower information (see suggestions under the References section)
  • cardboard tubes and sheet material (purchase cardboard sheets from local paper suppliers or ask for donations from local printers or find from recycling bins; provide an allotted amount to each team for each tower problem)
  • other classroom building materials and tools, such as scissors, tape, hot glue, paper, straws, string, etc.
  • Note: If available, build sturdier towers using small wooden dowels and plastic tubing, which enables students to gain experience with hand and power tools.
  • Activity Worksheet

Introduction/Motivation

Photograph shows two-side-by-side masonry towers in Bologna, Italy. One is ~300 feet high and the other is ~150 feet high.
Example self-supporting towers built in the 1100s in Italy.
copyright
Copyright © 2005 Patrick Clenet, Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2tours_bologne_082005.jpg

Towers have been a part of developed society for centuries. Towers serve a variety of purposes. What towers can you think of in your community? What are they used for? What other types of towers can you think of? (Listen to student suggestions and descriptions of their purposes. Examples: fire look-out towers, observation tower, watch tower, prison tower, silo, light house, bell tower, clock tower, minaret, church spire, water tower, oil drilling tower, turret, chimney, skyscraper, rotating restaurant tower, bridge tower [for cable-stayed and suspension bridges], airport control tower, wind turbine tower, radio mast, radar tower, antenna tower, electrical transmission tower, cellular communication tower. How are these towers similar? (Towers are all structures that are taller than they are wide.) How are they different or unique from each other in their designs? (Some are self-supporting and others require external support via wires and cables. This will be researched more in the activity.)

Engineering designs (including the design of towers) are subject to requirements and constraints. Can you think of any examples of what these might be? (Listen to student ideas. Examples: time, funding, materials, expected loads, and functionality specifications such as size, height, etc.)

Today, your team is going to design, construct and test three types of model towers Just like all engineering projects, it will have some requirements and constraints: Your towers must hold an egg one foot high for 15 seconds.

Who remembers the steps of the engineering design process? (Listen to student suggestions. Write on the board: identify the need or problem, research the problem, brainstorm and develop possible solutions, select the best solution, construct a prototype, test and evaluate, communicate the design solution, redesign and improve.) Through these steps, we'll come up with good solutions.

Let's get started!

Procedure

Background

A photograph shows about five metal truss radio towers, secured by numerous guy wires anchored at angles in the surrounding ground.
Example radio towers with guy-wires for support.
copyright
Copyright © 2005 G-Man, Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hillmorton_radio_masts.jpg

The engineering design process has the following steps:

  • Identify the need or problem.
  • Research the problem.
  • Develop possible solutions (brainstorm!).
  • Select the best possible solution(s).
  • Construct a prototype.
  • Test and evaluate.
  • Communicate the solution(s).
  • Redesign (and improve!).

Three tower types: Towers are usually classified into three categories: guyed or cable-supported, free-standing or self-standing, and monopole. The self-supporting and monopole towers are similar in that neither requires guy wires or any other support structure. Guyed type towers are usually the least expensive.

As a general rule, three main specifications are needed to choose a tower site: site selection, tower type and tower specification knowledge (or tower code) within the community.

For reference, see Douglas Prime's six-page Fairly Fundamental Facts about Forces & Structures: Word doc version or pdf version

Before the Activity

  • Gather materials.
  • Make copies of the Activity Worksheet, which includes student instructions.
  • Find websites; make copies of tower drawings and diagrams, if desired.

With the Students

  1. Introduce the topic of towers. Facilitate a discussion on different types of towers and their uses. Talk about the design process, including a discussion on the benefits of sketches, multiview drawings, and orthographic projections.
  2. Organize students into small groups. Hand out the worksheets.
  3. Explain criteria for the tower design and construction. Each group must design and create one of each of the following: a guyed tower (cable supported), a self-standing tower, and a monopole tower. Each tower must be able to support the weight of an egg for 15 seconds.
  4. Students test and measure the three types of towers by evaluating height, strength (ability to hold an egg), and the amount of material usage.
  5. Students participate in the presentation of the group solutions to the class.
  6. Students present comparisons or advantages and disadvantages of the different tower types.

Attachments

Investigating Questions

  • What is the purpose of towers?
  • Why is one type of tower preferable to another?
  • How can an egg be held and supported at the top of a tower?
  • How can we build models to represent the three recognized types of towers?
  • What is meant by tension, compression, torsion and shear in construction?
  • What are the parts of this structure (tower) that are similar to those found in bridge design?

Assessment

Project & Presentation Evaluation: As student teams present to the class their three tower designs, results and conclusions, grade their accomplishments using the attached Rubric for Performance Assessment, which includes criteria for design, construction and presentation.

References

Sturdivant, Peter. So You Want to Build a Tower? Published August 1998. Wireless Network Systems. Accessed August 9, 2001. http://www.angelfire.com/me/blkstrpra/aug98.html

Tower Photographs. Pre-Engineering Software Corp. Accessed August 9, 2001. http://www.pre-engineering.com/resources/towers.htm

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Last modified: September 20, 2018

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