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Brief Description Students build the tallest tower possible to support a marshmallow. They can use only dry spaghetti and tape.
Subject Types of Engineering, Miscellaneous
Grade Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: Depending on your goals for the unit, the lesson objectives may include:

  1. Students will better understand what “engineering” is and practice using the engineering design process.
  2. Students will practice working with constraints. They will be able to identify the constraints in this activity.
  3. Students will be able to describe the properties of strong structures.
  4. Students will begin to realize that it is okay to fail!
Materials Needed:
  • dried spaghetti (10 pieces for every group)
  • masking tape (1 ft for every group)
  • marshmallows (1 per group)
  • measuring tape/yardstick (most classrooms have one)
Preparation and Set Up:
  • Gather necessary materials
  • When in the class, it is recommended that one STOMPer divide up the tape and spaghetti while the other STOMPer explains the activity.
Necessary Background This activity requires no specific background. Many STOMPers use it to introduce the engineering design process.
  1. Explain the activity: They will have 15 minutes to build the tallest tower out of 10 pieces of spaghetti and 12 inches of tape. The marshmallow must balance at the top of the tower.  The time limit and the limited amount of materials given are known as constraints. (No, you can’t eat the marshmallows. We will be measuring from to the top of the marshmallow so don’t use it as a base)
  2. Split students into groups of 2-4 students and let them work for 15 minutes. Circulate the classroom and talk about different designs.
  3. At the end of 15 minutes, measure the towers. It is recommended not to
  4. Discuss: What did you have trouble with in this challenge? What do you think you needed to make a better tower? How did you make yours stand up? Did the weight of the marshmallow make any towers collapse? You may also want to revisit and discuss any learning goals for the class.
  5. If time allows, you may repeat the activity. Many classes like to repeat the activity so that they can apply what they have just learned!
Author Laura Fradin, Jake Hellman
Reference 1
Name ofActivity Shipwrecked: Circuits and Lanterns
Author STOMP
Keywords circuits, batteries, electricity, Snap Circuits, IEL
Subject Electricity & Magnetism
Grade Level 5
Time 1 Hour
Brief Description This activity was divided into two days. Day 1 was primarily free play and exploration so that the students could gain a sense of how circuits work and what electricity is. Day 2 was a series of three challenges to get the students to use different components of their kits and learn about series versus parallel circuits.
Learning Goals: Introduce students to electricity and circuits in the context of “Shipwrecked at the Bottom of the World” by Jennifer Armstrong. Have students develop teamwork and communication skills.
Materials: Snap Circuit Kits
Knowledge Background A basic understanding of how a circuit works.
Procedure Day 1:

  1. Introduced students to circuits and electricity by playing a game that demonstrated resistance and current. Students were assigned to be electrons running around the circuit. A few others were assigned to be resistors with a number of ohms of their choice (jumping jacks). When the electron students reached the resistor students, they had to do x jumping jacks to represent resistance.
  2. Students were split into pairs and given a Snap Circuit kit to explore. The goal was to turn the light bulb on.

Day 2:

  1. Challenge 1: Get the lightbulb and fan to turn on at the same time.
  2. Introduced parallel versus series circuits using a tollbooth analogy (next time: have the kids play a game!)
  3. Challenge 2: Make the lightbulb brighter or the fan turn faster. Explore using resistors.
  4. Challenge 3: Control whether the lightbulb and fan are turned on at the same time. Explore using resistors and switches.
  5. Class discussion about challenges of designing a circuit. Why do parallel circuits work better than series circuits sometimes?
  6. Discussed” soft” vs. “hard” engineering skills because the students had a difficult time working together and communicating in pairs. This discussion reinforced the importance of discussing a plan, compromising ideas, and teamwork.
PreviousActivity (if applicable) Shipwrecked: Insulation; Shipwrecked: Dirty Water
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Shipwrecked!

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