Lesson: Building a Paper Tower

David Kujawski Bird Middle East Walpole, MA
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Lesson Objective

YWBAT: develop and implement a design for a paper tower, using 20 pieces of paper and one yard of tape, that is at least 1 meter tall and can withstand the force of a fan turned on high power.

Lesson Plan

This challenge is based on an NSTA journal article on Technology and Engineering.  It can be used to teach technology and engineering standards, as it incorporates orthographic drawings, identifying and addressing constraints, drawing a tower as a system, developing prototypes/trouble-shooting, and communicating the solution.  Criticial thinking skills are stressed.  Students really enjoy this lesson. 

Lesson breakdown:
Day1:
Introduce the challenge, assign groups (2-3 students), have partners brainstorm ideas for addressing the challenge, identify constraints and design a final drawing.
Day 2:
Have students build their tower
Tip: designate an area in your classroom where students can stow their towers by period.  Have them write their names on the tower with a marker, so that it is easy to find the next day.
Day 3:
Test day!  You'll need a rubric for each group, an oscillating fan, and tape to secure the towers to the floor.  I've attached a rubric for you to use.  You can make your own at rubistar.com.

Aspects of the assignment:
1) Each student will turn in an orthographic projection on a single piece of graph paper
2) Each student will submit a picture that depicts the tower as a system: (Goal, inputs, processes, outputs and feedback)
3) The tower itself
4) A journal that documents the issues that they trouble-shooting and redesigned and a description of the constraints that they addressed.  This fulfills the "communicating the solution" to their problem.

Lesson Resources

Picture of paper towers   Activity
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