Thursday, November 20, 2014

Engineering Design Challenge: Straw Structures #1

Hello Friends!

I thought that I would share with you another fun design challenge that my 7th and 8th graders had a lot of fun with...straw structures. I found this challenge on Jonathan Claydon's webpage: Infinite Sums. He has listed several versions for students to attempt. I just stuck with one due to time constraints, but if you're looking to extend the activity that I'm sharing with you, go visit that page and see what else there is to offer. 

The Challenge:

How can a straw structure be made to support a tennis ball 12 inches off the table top for 15 seconds?


  • 25 straws (I used the kind purchased in bulk at Costco)
  • 1.8 meters of masking tape (it's the length of the tables that students sit at)

  • You may use the paper from the straws as part of your design.
  • You may cut or fold or bend the straws to meet your design needs.
  • You will have 25 minutes to complete this challenge.
Here are some of the designs that students came up with...

Photo by Bethany Ligon (2014)

Photo by Bethany Ligon (2014)

Photo by Bethany Ligon (2014)

 Teacher Tips:

  • Students working in pairs or trios is best.
  • If students ask for additional supplies, I suggest that they barter with another group - for example, one group might trade some tape for straws.
  • If you plan on giving your students a grade for this activity - here's how I did it:
    • Making an honest attempt = 7.5 points
    • Structure holds the ball 8-9.9 inches off the table top = 8.5 points
    • Structure hold the ball 10 inches or more off the table top = 10 points
  • And because my grading policy allows for redos, if students are not able to succeed in the allotted time, they may come in on their own time and complete the challenge again.

Things to think about:
  • How might the level of difficulty be adjusted by providing the "bendy" straws instead? 
  • What might you do differently to meet the needs of your students? 
  • How could you tie this activity into a science concept that you are teaching? 

Thanks for reading!
Be OutStanding!

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