Testing paper towers is fairly easy if you have the testing area setup prior to your students arriving. Here is a video that walks you through the setup.
Students are given 10 minutes to finalize their construction. Often times, towers shift and fall overnight, so I give students time to make adjustments and prepare to test. I sometimes determine that they need additional tape to fortify their towers. When students are ready, one group at a time will bring their tower to the front of the room to test.
During that time, students are making predictions on their own about whether the tower wlll be successful using the P.E.O.E. strategy. This covers several issues: 1) it gives kids something to do while other students are testing, limiting disruptions and chaotic environments 2) it provides data that can be used for meaningful discussions about form versus function (CCC).
This video shows what the test process looks like. The first thing that I do is tape the tower to the desk. I then measure to make sure that the tower is at least a meter tall. Next, I turn on the fan for 30 seconds. Based on the outcome of the test, I mark the rubric accordingly. Prior to testing the tower, I remind students to record their P.E.O.E. of each tower. After the test is over, students perform the O. and E. sections of their P.E.O.E.. They will use the information from each P.E.O.E. to perform analysis using Crosscutting Concepts in later lessons. The idea is for students to look to see if there are certain patterns or forms that lead to successful designs and less successful designs.
Once students have completed testing their towers they perform one of 2 tasks, based on the outcome of their test. If their tower was unsuccessful, students analyze their P.E.O.E.s for characteristics of the towers that were successful (CCC Form and Function), and discuss how they can incorporate those characteristics into the redesign of their own tower. They then write a reflection and provide a sketch of their redesign.