Lesson: Balloon Bridge Challenge

David Kujawski Bird Middle East Walpole, MA
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Lesson Objective

YWBAT: Design and build a bridge that can hold at least 5 textbooks using 2 classroom chairs and 15 balloons.

Lesson Plan

Goal: Students will build a balloon bridge that can hold at least 5 textbooks.

Materials:

  • Latex free balloons (the ones used by clowns to make balloon animals)
  • 2 classroom chairs
  • Safety glasses
  • Ruler

Lesson breakdown:

  1. Do Now: Describe a bridge that you have seen and then draw a picture of it.  This will get students thinking about bridges before the class discussion begins.  Share.
  2. Explain the goal of the class and how it will run.  Students will be placed in groups of 3-5 students.  They begin by making a sketch of their bridge.  After they decide how their bridge will look they will be given 15 balloons.  Groups will need to construct their bridge in 8 minutes.  After the 8 minutes the teacher will test each bridge for its ability to hold at least 5 textbooks.  The teacher will keep placing books on the bridge until the bridge breaks or the books fall off.
  3. Reflect on the qualities of the bridges that were successful and unsuccessful and ask how they can improve their bridge in the future.  This can be a HW assignment.

Teacher tips:

  • The chairs will move from the tension created by the balloons.  Have students place heavy items, such as books or they can sit on the chairs, to prevent them from sliding inward.
  • The chairs should remain 2.5 feet apart at all times.  Students are not allowed to move the chairs closer together.
  • Have Books ready for stacking (I use the thin Prentice Hall books)
  • Have the rubrics ready to go to expedite testing and grading (see uploaded documents, Balloon Bridge Rubric)
  • Remember to enforce safety--students must keep goggles on at all times!
  • Have a great time; students love this activity.
  • Do the activity again the following day and see if the students' reflections resulted in them building better bridges.  Reflection, redesign and rebuilding is an intergral part of engineering, so you should reinforce that concept in class.

 

Lesson Resources

Balloon Bridge Challenge rubric   Activity
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