Simple tower challenge

Grade Level: 
High School
Subject: 
Design, Engineering
Provided by TryEngineering -
 
Lesson Synopsis 
The "Tall Tower Challenge" activity explores the design of tall structures such as sky scrapers and telecommunication towers. Students work in teams to engineer the tallest tower they can build using just straws, pipe cleaners, and paperclips. The tower must be strong enough to support the weight of a golf ball for two minutes.
 
Objectives 
- Learn about structural engineering.
 
- Learn about engineering design and redesign.
 
- Learn how engineering can help solve society's challenges.
 
- Learn about teamwork and problem solving.
 
Internet Connections
- TryEngineering (www.tryengineering.org)
 
- Burj Khalifa Tower Design and Construction (www.burjkhalifa.ae/language/en-us/the-tower.aspx)
 
- CN Tower (www.cntower.ca)
 
- National Science Education Standards (www.nsta.org/publications/nses.aspx)
 
- ITEA Standards for Technological Literacy (www.iteaconnect.org/TAA)
 
Recommended Reading
How Tall Is Tall?: Comparing Buildings (ISBN: 978-1432939557)
 
- Reinforced Concrete Design of Tall Buildings (ISBN: 978-1439804803)
 
- Construction Technology For Tall Buildings (ISBN: 978-9812818614)
 
Optional Writing Activity 
Write an essay or a paragraph about how engineering advances led to the explosive growth of vertical buildings at the turn of the 20th century. 
 
Lesson Goal 
Lesson focuses on the growth of tall buildings and their structures. Students work in teams to develop the tallest tower they can build with limited materials that can support the weight of a golf ball for two minutes. The golf ball must be supported near the top of the tower, with the bottom of the ball no more than 20% below the upper height of the tower. They develop a design on paper, build their tower, present and test their tower to the class, evaluate their results and those of their teammates, and complete reflection sheets.
 
Materials
- Student Resource Sheets and Worksheets (available at http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=91)
 
- Set of materials for each team: 1 golfball, 50 plastic straws, 50 pipe cleaners, 25 metal paperclips.  
 
Procedure
1. Show students the student reference sheets. These may be read in class or provided as reading material for the prior night's homework. 
 
2. To introduce the lesson, discuss with students the increase in the height of buildings over the last century. Perhaps consider what the highest building in your community might be, and compare that with some of the tallest buildings in the world.
 
3. If possible, have students explore the design and manufacturing resources on the Burj Khalifa Tower Design and Construction website and have them consider the shape of the tallest structures. (www.burjkhalifa.ae/language/en-us/the-tower.aspx)
 
4. Teams will consider their challenge and draw a diagram of their planned tower.
 
5. Teams next construct their towers, and test them within their team.
 
6. All teams then present their towers to the class and demonstrate the ability of the tower to hold the golf ball.
 
7. All towers are measured to determine the tallest tower.
 
8. Student teams complete a reflection sheet and share their experiences with the class.
 
9. Note: This lesson can be completed with a full grade of students instead of one classroom so students compete against all others in the school.
 
Time Needed
One to two 45 minute sessions.
 
Student Resource:
Tall Structures
 
The CN Tower, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a communications and observation tower standing 553.3 metres tall. It was recognized as the tallest free-standing structure on land in the world for 31 years until it was recently surpassed in height by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. the Burj Khalifa was built in 2009 and is 828 meters high. The third tallest is the Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., which stands at 527m (1,729.0 ft) when measured to its pinnacle, The tallest wooden structure is the Gliwice Radio Tower in Poland, which stands at 118 meters high and was built in 1935. 
 
In January 2010, the world’s highest outdoor observation deck located in Burj Khalifa, opened to the public. Hundreds of people queued up for tickets to Level 124 of Burj Khalifa – and the chance of being among the first to experience its stunning views across the city. The view is said to be similar to what you might see from an airplane. The ascent to the 124th floor is by a double-deck elevator, each deck carrying up to 14 people and travelling at 10 meters per second. In less than a minute, the elevator reaches the observation deck, the world’s only public observatory at this height with an outdoor terrace. High windows circle the entire viewing platform, and visitors can scan the horizon and the distant streets below through computerized viewfinders, which also have pre-programmed day and nighttime vistas of the city and surrounding region. 
 
Student Assignment:
Applying Technology to Solve Problems
 
Engineering Teamwork and Planning
You are part of a team of engineers given the challenge of building the tallest tower you can build using only 50 straws, 50 pipe cleaners, and 25 paperclips.  
 
You do not need to use all the materials, but your tower must support the weight of a golf ball for two minutes. The golf ball must be supported near the top of the tower, with the bottom of the ball no more than 20% below the upper height of the tower.
 
Planning and Design Phase
Think about the different ways you can bend or change the shape of straws, pipe cleaners, and paper clips. You may cut these items, but cannot use tape or other materials to connect them together. Draw your plan for the tower.  
 
Construction Phase
Build your tower and test it to see if it can support the golf ball. Then, answer the questions below:
 
1. How similar was your design to the actual tower you built?
 
2. If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, describe why your team decided to make revisions.
 
3. Did you use all the parts provided to you? Were any of the parts used only to increase the height of the tower?
 
Presentation and Measurement
Present your tower to the class and have your teacher measure the height of the tower.  Bear in mind that the golf ball must be supported near the top of the tower, with the bottom of the ball no more than 20% below the upper height of the tower. If the bottom of the ball is higher than 20% from the top, your tower will be disqualified. Complete the items below for your tower:
 
Overall height of the bottom of the ball on/in tower:
 
Distance from bottom of golf ball to top of tower:
 
Percentage of tower supporting golf ball:
 
Evaluation  
Answer the evaluation questions below:
 
1. Describe the shape or construction of the tower that was the tallest and won the challenge? How was this tower different from yours, if yours did not win?
 
2. If you had a chance to do this project again, what would your team have done differently?
 
3. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work alone on it? Why?  
 
4. If you could have used one additional material (tape, glue, wood sticks, foil -- as examples) which would you choose and why?
 
5. Do you think that once a building is designed and approved for construction that many aspects are changed during the building process? Why or why not?
 
6. How long do you think it will take before a building is constructed that surpasses the height of the Burj Khalifa? Where do you think it will be built? Why?
 
For Teachers:
Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks
 
Note: All lesson plans in this series are aligned to the National Science Education Standards which were produced by the National Research Council and endorsed by the National Science Teachers Association, and if applicable, also to the International Technology Education Association's Standards for Technological Literacy or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.
 
National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10-14)
 
CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry
As a result of activities, all students should develop
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
- Understandings about scientific inquiry 
 
CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science
As a result of their activities, all students should develop an understanding of
- Motions and forces 
 
CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology
As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop
- Abilities of technological design 
 
CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of
- Populations, resources, and environments 
- Risks and benefits 
- Science and technology in society 
 
CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science
As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of
- History of science 
 
National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18)
 
CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry
As a result of activities, all students should develop
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
 
CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science 
As a result of their activities, all students should develop understanding of
- Motions and forces 
 
CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology
As a result of activities, all students should develop
- Abilities of technological design 
- Understandings about science and technology 
 
CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of
- Personal and community health 
- Population growth 
- Environmental quality 
- Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges 
 
Standards for Technological Literacy - All Ages
 
The Nature of Technology
- Standard 1: Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology.
 
Technology and Society
- Standard 4: Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology.
- Standard 5: Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the environment.
- Standard 6: Students will develop an understanding of the role of society in the development and use of technology.
- Standard 7: Students will develop an understanding of the influence of technology on history.
 
Design
- Standard 8: Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
- Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.
- Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.
 
Abilities for a Technological World
- Standard 11: Students will develop abilities to apply the design process.
 
The Designed World
- Standard 20: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use construction technologies.