Give the students 50 popsicle sticks and a set amount of tape and ask them to design a bridge 2 feet long and as wide as their palm. Test the bridges to see how many books they can hold.
Introduce students to the qualities of sturdy structures and the engineering design process (encourage testing).
popsicle sticks, tape, books, desks/tables
Preparation and Set Up:
Print out enough worksheets for the class. Count out the number of popsicle sticks for each group and cut up the tape.
1. Outline the activity–the students must make a bridge to hold as many books as possible given limited materials and certain length requirements (identify the problem). 2. Have each student design a possible bridge (develop possible solutions). 3. Have the groups discuss their designs and come up with one design as a group (Select the Best Possible Solution). 4. Distribute the materials once the group has shown you they have a design. 5. Each group constructs a prototype. 6. Groups test by adding books and evaluates their bridge. 7. They continue to redesign and test. 8. Wrap up by discussing the most and least effective solutions each group tried.
To increase the difficulty, you may add or take away materials. For example, you can ask them to make the same length bridge with fewer popsicle sticks or also give each group other materials like paper and straws and require a longer bridge. In addition, limiting the amount of tape can force students to have to come up with more creative solutions.