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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.
Procedure
  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 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/SpaghettiTowersOutline.pdf

ACTIVITY HEADER

Name of Activity Squishy Circuits and Circuit Diagrams
Author STOMP
Keywords squishy circuit, circuit diagram, electricity
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Using experience with squishy circuits and the symbols for elements in a circuit, students will practice building and drawing circuits. The circuits will have batteries, LED lights, and Play-Doh as resistors/wires (that bit can be confusing, especially when talking about short circuits!)
Lesson Objectives: The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to circuit diagrams and to get them to think about designing circuits. They will practice going back and forth between drawing circuits and building them. In addition, students will practice figuring out why a circuit isn’t working the way it’s meant to.
Materials Needed: Each group (2-3 students) should have:
9V battery
Play-Doh
2 LED lights
2 Alligator clips to connect the battery to the rest of the circuits
A worksheet with example circuits for them to build and room for them to draw the circuits that they build
Preparation and Set Up: While one person introduces the class, the other person can distribute materials and worksheets to each group.
Necessary Background Teachers should be familiar with the symbols used and with the idea of a short circuit and the idea that electrons flow through the path of least resistance.
Procedure
  • Start the class off by reviewing the different components of a circuit and their respective symbols (a good idea is to write these on the board so that everyone can see them).
  • While that’s going on, the other person can distribute materials.
  • Have the students fist try to look at an example circuit diagram and build it, showing the flow of electrons.
  • Then, have them build a new circuit and draw it.
  • After that, have them build a circuit from a diagram that has something wrong with it (a short circuit, an open circuit… etc), try to fix the circuit, and then fix the diagram and explain why it didn’t work.
  • Giving the students worksheets seems to work well for groups that go at their own pace. It also seems to keep the students focused especially when it comes to writing down and explaining their thoughts.
Extensions: If a group finishes early, they can play a game where one person draws a circuit (that either works or doesn’t) and the other person has to build it. If the circuit was purposefully designed to be broken, the other person also has to figure out how to fix it.
Modifications: use snap circuits instead of squishy circuits.
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Intro to Electricity and Circuits

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