Summary
Students are introduced to some basic civil engineering concepts in an exciting and interactive manner via two lessons and three activities. Bridges and skyscrapers—the two most visible structures designed by civil engineers—are discussed in depth, including the design principles behind them. To help students visualize in three dimensions, one handson activity presents threedimensional coordinate systems and gives students practice finding and describing points in space. After learning about skyscrapers, tower design principles and how materials absorb different types of forces, students compete to build their own newspaper towers to meet specific design criteria. The unit concludes with student groups using balsa wood and glue to design and build tower structures to withstand vertical and lateral forces.Engineering Connection
The ability to visualize in three dimensions is imperative to civil engineers. Engineers use a coordinate system whenever they create engineering drawings of structures, usually the Cartesian coordinate system. To build the tallest structures in the world, engineers must understand the importance of adequate foundations and redundancy in design to ensure safety and stability. To meet the challenge, engineers have devised and implemented many other creative designs and material uses so that their structures are able to withstand great forces. Students get a taste of these concepts and then apply what they have learned to create towers to meet specific objectives, as if they were civil engineers.
More Curriculum Like This
Students learn about the history of the world's tallest free standing structures and the basic design principles behind their success. They 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...
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 towerbuilding concepts. During a twoday process and usi...
Students are presented with a brief history of bridges as they learn about the three main bridge types: beam, arch and suspension. They are introduced to two natural forces — tension and compression — common to all bridges and structures.
Students learn about civil engineers and work through each step of the engineering design process in two miniactivities that prepare them for a culminating challenge to design and build the tallest straw tower possible, given limited time and resources. In the culminating challenge (tallest straw t...
Educational Standards
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science,
technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 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.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 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.
NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards  Science

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
(Grades 6  8)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?
This standard focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions. The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions. All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and longterm consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.
Common Core State Standards  Math

Find and position integers and other rational numbers on a horizontal or vertical number line diagram; find and position pairs of integers and other rational numbers on a coordinate plane.
(Grade 6)
More Details
Do you agree with this alignment?
Unit Overview
Lesson 1, The Next Dimension: Students are introduced to the concept of 3D coordinate systems and graphing, which are essential to civil engineering work. In an associated activity, A Place in Space, students practice finding points in space and describing the location of given points in space.
Lesson 2, Skyscrapers: Engineering Up!: Students are presented with a history of skyscrapers and their unnique structural engineering design principles. In an associated activity, Newspaper Towers, students compete to build newspaper towers of maximum height and ability to withstand wind forces. In a second associated activity, Balsa Towers, student groups use balsa wood and epoxy glue to build structurally sound towers with favorable strengthtoweight ratios.
Unit Schedule
 Day 1: 3D Coordinate System to Map Galaxies: The Next Dimension lesson
 Day 2: A Place in Space activity
 Day 34: Skyscrapers: Engineering Up! lesson
 Day 45: Newspaper Tower activity
 Day 57: Balsa Towers activity
Assessment
After this unit, students should be able to:
 Locate a point in space, given its coordinates and an origin.
 Use coordinates to describe the location of a given point in space relative to some origin.
 Explain why they built their towers the way they did, using the concepts and terms they learned in the history of skyscraper presentation.
 Explain how their towers resisted the wind load (for example, which tower parts supported the bulk of the load, or making the tower really slender so the wind has less area to act on, etc.).
Contributors
Kelly Devereaux; Ben BurnhamCopyright
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Duke UniversitySupporting Program
Techtronics Program, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke UniversityAcknowledgements
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 GK12 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.
Last modified: February 15, 2018
Comments