Detective- Civil Engineering


Name of Activity

Detective Civil Engineer


Hannah Garfield and Kirsten Jorgensen


detective, mystery, civil engineering, structure, bridge



Grade Level

4, 5


1 Hour Total

Brief Description

Lesson 2 of the Detective Engineer: Intro to Different Types of Engineering unit – civil engineering.

Lesson Objectives:

– understand what civil engineers do/design

– experience building neatly and conserving materials

Materials Needed:

– Popsicle sticks

– rubber band

– masking tape

– string

– ruler

– heavy objects to test with (usually can use classroom’s textbooks)

– paper and pencils

Preparation and Set Up:

– arrange students in pairs

– arrange students around classroom so each student has a 1.5′ gap (between desks or tables) they can work with


Now that the crime scene is illuminated, the students/detective engineers see that there’s a large hole in the floor in between them and the scene of the crime. Ask students how might they cross this gap and what kind of engineering knowledge would they need? Group discussion about what civil engineers do/design. Introduce materials students will use to create a structure (don’t necessarily call it a bridge) to cross the gap. Each group will receive:

  • two 1′ long pieces of tape
  • one 1′ long piece of string
  • 5 rubber bands
  • 20-30 Popsicle sticks (give all groups same amount)
  • paper and a pencil for planning (if they don’t have already)

Before distributing materials allow students time to plan activity on paper. Emphasize that you will not give them extra materials and they need to plan accordingly. Allow groups to build. When groups are ready test structures with heavy items like text books. With about 10-15 min left in class, bring group back together to have each group present their structure and test it in front of the class.


– add more weight when testing

– allow students to re-design using even fewer materials

– allow students to re-design using same materials but a wider gap

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