Design and construct a structure made with 30 toothpicks and 30 miniature marshmallows. Then test its strength: Can it handle a Jell-O earthquake?
This Jell-O Earthquake activity from TeachEngineering, STEM curriculum for K-12, demonstrates how students can work individually or in teams to earthquake-proof their buildings. The project provides hands-on explorations of cross bracing, large “footprints,” and tapered geometry. Test which structures best handle the ground as it jiggles.
Some background from TeachEngineering:
“Because earthquakes can cause walls to crack, foundations to move and even entire buildings to crumple, engineers incorporate into their structural designs techniques that withstand damage from earthquake forces, for example, cross bracing, large bases and tapered geometry. Earthquake-proof buildings are intended to bend and sway with the motion of earthquakes, or are isolated from the movement by sliders. Engineers use the engineering design process to come up with an idea, test it, and then re-engineer the structure based on its performance…”
“This takes a lot of creative brainstorming! After making a list of solutions and some sketches of their ideas, the team of engineers plan and select their best idea.
“Once the team decides on the details of the final design, they create the prototype and test it out! Prototypes are smaller models that are used by engineers to test a design. In the testing phase, the team pays attention to what needs to be changed to the model to make the product work better. The last step of the engineering design process is to improve (iterate) their design.”
• Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom from TeachEngineering
• Engineering Design Process from TeachEngineering
• How to Build a Tall Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower, a Make Fun Creating tutorial
Then try these related videos next:
• What’s an Engineer? + The Engineering Process
• Succeed by Failing: Failure points and how to fix them
• Spaghetti bridges, a DIY engineering activity for kids (and adults)
• Construct a Roman aqueduct, a DIY engineering activity
• What happens when you put marshmallows in a vacuum?
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