This project challenges students to construct a "cost-effective" tower that can support a designated load. In the project, students deal with the same problems faced by designers and engineers in the real world. They are given specific design parameters with which their structure must comply. Material, assembly, and production costs must be considered. Their structure must perform a specific task.
Just like engineers create a design to follow before starting a project, students are encouraged to devise a plan. By having a plan, students minimize the amount of "waste"--discarding index cards and using too many staples. I urged students to consider the "best" way to fulfill the eleven inch height requirement and to consider how a fold increased stability. I suggested that they make a simple model out of notebook paper to test different designs.
In this activity, teams comprised of two students design and construct a tower capable of holding a standard brick. An unlimited quantity of 4 x 6 inch index cards and staples may be used. The index cards represent building material costs, the staples represent assembly costs, and the folds in the index cards represent production costs. Every index card, staple, and fold costs a "$1.00."
There is an individual and a team component to the assessment. A maximum of fifty points was allotted to the team based upon the "cost" of the tower. A maximum of fifty points was awarded individually based upon questions dealing with the project.
Materials include an unlimited quantity of 4 x 6 inch index cards, staples, and a stapler. A standard brick is used for testing that has the dimensions of 8.5 inches x 3.25 inches x 2.75 inches. The brick weighs approximately 4.5 pounds.
Designs to guide student inquiries:
material costs = $3.00
assembly costs = $6.00
total cost = $9.00/unit
material costs = $2.00
assembly costs = $2.00
total cost = $4.00/unit
Folds represent production costs. The unit in example one is more costly than example two. By using folds to increase stability, could fewer units be used to complete the assigned task--reducing overall cost?
If using the form to submit your responses, you must turn in the answer to question one separately.
This project was based upon an original activity developed by Dr. David Hoult, Senior Research Associate at MIT. My project source was Scientific American Frontiers Science Contests on-line.