Sturdy Tower

CaptureThis building challenge provides an opportunity for students to explore concepts related to sturdy design, including load distribution, rigidity, balance, and strength.

The challenge

How would you design and construct a tower with LEGO bricks to support the weight of a stack of books?

Possible learning sequence

  1. Discuss sturdiness with the students and explore some of the reasons why certain structures are sturdier than others. Show some examples of sturdy design and not-so-sturdy design (such as soft story failure).
  2. Discuss and agree on the criteria for the challenge. For example:
    • Each tower should be at least some minimum height (e.g. 6 inches or 150mm)
    • The tower should be sturdy enough to support an agreed weight, such as some number of textbooks.
    • You will work in pairs and have 10 minutes to build your tower.
    • The contruction must only use LEGO beams, plates, axles, and connectors.
    • Stacking bricks is not allowed.
  3. Encourage the students to test their structures and redesign as they work.
  4. Once the time for building has elapsed, gather the students for the final strength test. Have the student pairs come up one at a time to test their designs. Have them record the results.
  5. Spend five minutes at the end of the lesson discussing the towers that the students built. Have them assess which techniques worked and which did not work.
  6. Point out the advantages of interweaving and crossing pieces, adding connector pegs and axles for support, and making supports wider for greater balance and strength.

towerIdeas for extension

  • Investigate types of trusses. eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truss
  • How might you connect different parts of the tower in such a way that the load on the tower is distributed as evenly as possible?
  • Create the lightest tower that supports a specified weight a given height off the ground.
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CEEO

The Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) in Boston, Massachusetts, is dedicated to improving engineering education in the classroom, from Kindergarten to college. The Center houses faculty, staff, and graduate students from engineering disciplines and the education department.

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