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Activity Name:

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Paper Towers

How long did it take?

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1 hour


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  • pieces of paper (number varies based on project)
  • straws (2 per group)
  • tape

Vocabulary to know about for this activity:

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Engineering design process

Background/Things to know about for this activity:

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Preparation (what should one do to prepare)::

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Arrange students into groups of 2
Gather materials (and photocopy worksheets)
Make a poster or handouts of the engineering design process

Procedure (how to go about the activity):

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Begin the lesson by introducing the engineering design process. Explain how students will 
use the engineering design process in their lesson to construct a tower out of paper:
Identify Problem: You need to build a tower that will support a weight (stack of books).
Research: discuss as a class some ways that you might make your tower sturdy, like 
how to distribute the weight, what shapes might help you, etc.
Develop Possible Solutions: The class will draw out some possible designs on a
sheet of papers.
Select the Best Possible solution(s): Student groups should discuss their ideas and 
select one design to actually build.
Construct a Prototype: Students will build their towers
Test and evaluate: Students will test their designs by placing the weight on their 
towers. Students can either tests their designs as they finish, or each group can 
test in front of the class when everyone has finished building. How much weight 
can the tower hold?
Communicate the solution(s): Have students share their designs. Discuss as a 
class the following questions:
What designs seemed to work the best?
What were some ways that towers failed?
did they tip over or crush?

What were some shapes that worked best to hold the towers?
What materials seemed to be most useful?

Redesign: In this activity students will not actually redesign their structures, 
but you should discuss as a class how different groups might improve their designs.

How can the EDP or engineering design practices be incorporated into this activity?

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Central Concept: Engineering design requires creative thinking and strategies to solve practical 
problems generated by needs and wants.
2.2    Describe different ways in which a problem can be represented, e.g., sketches, diagrams, 
graphic organizers, and lists.
2.3    Identify relevant design features (e.g., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype
of a solution to a given problem.

Central Concept: Engineering design is an iterative process that involves modeling and 

optimizing to develop technological
solutions to problems within given constraints.

2.1    Identify and explain the steps of the engineering design process, i.e., identify the need 
or problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best possible solution(s), 
construct a prototype, test and evaluate, communicate the solution(s), and redesign. 
2.2    Demonstrate methods of representing solutions to a design problem, e.g., sketches, 
orthographic projections, multiview drawings.
2.3    Describe and explain the purpose of a given prototype.
2.4    Identify appropriate materials, tools, and machines needed to construct a prototype
of a given engineering design. 
2.5    Explain how such design features as size, shape, weight, function, and cost limitations 
would affect the construction of a given prototype.

Comment: In the comment field please comment of how this activity went for you, how long it took, how long you expected it to take, if there were any other materials that you would have wanted to have, how your was teacher involved in this activity, if it was age/grade level appropriate for the students and any other comments about this activity you think are important for the next person to use this activity to know.


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