Skyscraper Exploration

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Overview:
Students are introduced to skyscraper designs and the many forces that are at work on the buildings.

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  • Students describe the concepts: force, compression, and load.
  • Students explore columns and triangles.
  • Students explain structural features of a skyscraper.
  • Students design and implement a solution to a problem.

 

Curriculum Topics:
Science: Physical Science, Motions and Forces, Technological Design

Grade Level:
6-12

Suggested Time:

Two or three 60 minute sessions

  1. Explore how engineers design a building with an unusual placement of support columns by using triangles for strength.
  2. Explore how engineers solve a potentially dangerous situation with the buildings structure. 
  3. Find creative solution when building a tower out of newspaper. Apply what has been learned with an interactive game.

 

Lesson Outline:

Day One:

  1. Begin the lesson by showing the video Designing the Citigroup Skyscraper. Discuss why a triangle is a strong shape. 
  2. Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair the task of making a square and a triangle from straws and paper clips. To connect two straws, slip the wide end of a paper clip into the end of one straw. Hook a second paper clip to the first. Now insert the wide end of the second clip into a second straw. Compare the stability of the shapes. Stand each shape up and press down on the top corner. What happens? How much does each one bend and twist? How hard can you press down on each shape before it collapses? Compare the results of your tests on the triangle and square.
  3. Use the interactive Shapes Lab to continue the exploration about shape strength.

 

Day Two:

  1. View the video Citigroup Skyscraper Design Problem. Discuss why the columns placement was such a problem.
  2. Columns are often used to hold up heavy loads, such as the roofs of buildings. Place an empty toilet tube into a tray or box lid on the floor. This is a column. While holding on to the back of a chair with both hands, gradually press straight down on the top of the column with one foot. Continue increasing your weight on the column until it collapses. Observe the collapsed tube. Now place tape over one end of the tube and fill it with sand. Tape the top and repeat the process. How did the strength of the second tube compare to the first tube?
  3. Continue the lesson with the interactive Loads Lab to explore how to strengthen a design to withstand various external forces.

 

LearningMedia Resources:

 

 

Exploration Activity Materials: 

  • Straws and paperclips 
  • Tray or box lid, empty toilet paper tubes, tape, and sand 

 

Source:

Supplemental exploration activities taken from Building Big Activity Guide. Produced by the Educational Print and Outreach Department of the WGBH Educational Foundation.

a) “Straw Shapes” pages 16-17
b) “Columns” pages 18-19

 


 
For a demonstration or more details, contact Karen Karst-Hoskins
at karenh@knpb.org or call 775.682.7805 or 775.544.9061.


Funding provided by NV Energy and the Walmart State Giving Program.
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