Brief Description:

Students build the tallest tower possible to support a marshmallow. They can only use dry spaghetti and tape.

Grades: K-3

Time: 30 minute

Concepts: sturdy structures, civil engineering, strong shapes, bracing, axle, bushing, pegs


Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will better understand what engineering is and practice using the engineering design process.
  • Students will practice working with constraints. They will be able to identify the constraints in this activity.
  • Students will be able to describe the properties of strong structures.
  • Students will begin to realize that it is okay to fail!

Materials:

  • 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)

Procedure:

  1. Introduce the Engineering Design Process
  2. Introduce the day’s activity. Students have to try to build the tallest possible tower out of 10 pieces of spaghetti and 12 inches of tape. The tower must be strong enough to support the weight of a marshmallow at the top.  The limited amount of materials given is known as a constraint.
    1. A constraint is a limitation or restriction.
    2. Discuss what makes a sturdy structure (wide base, triangles vs squares, etc)
    3. Remind students that they cannot eat the marshmallow because we will be measuring from to the top of the marshmallow so don’t use it as a base either!
  3. Split students into groups of 2-4 students and let them work. Circulate the classroom and talk about different designs.
  4. After students finish building, measure the towers.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. Students can eat their marshmallow at the end of the class period.

 

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