*Frequently Asked Questions* - Structures

[Introduction] [Task] [Process] [Resources] [Evaluation] [Conclusion]

- When is a good time in the year to do this project and how long does it take?
- What is the sequence of activities for this project?

I've used this project in the first week of geometry. This way it gets students thinking outside of the book right away (especially since I don’t give them one before the project) and learning how to use other resources. It gives me time to get to know my students and watch them work. They learn some "real world" geometry that will be really nicely integrated throughout the entire year. Students will have a new appreciation for a math course and hands-on projects. Plan on 8 days for the students to do the research, plan their structures, and construct their structures and do the testing. You won't regret the time spent once you see the excitement and interest that grows throughout this project! It makes the rest of the geometry go more smoothly, it goes quicker in some places, and makes more sense to students when you can refer back to things that they learned in the Structures Project.

Day 1: (a Thursday is a great day to start this project on),

- Introduce the project and hand out the project paper and evaluation rubric.
- Then have students work in pairs on the Internet research part of the project. This gets them thinking about all types of structures and how they are built. It gets them looking at natures way of building structures, natures way of putting stress on structures, and man's way of providing strength in materials and designs. If students don’t complete this work in class, which they probably won’t, encourage them to look up other resources and continue their Internet work at home or after school. A weekend is perfect. This research is due on day 3!
- Make sure to let students know that they will need a bottle of white all-purpose glue…I have students use Elmer's and make sure that they put their names on the bottle with a permanent marker.

Day 2:

- In class, do the tension and compression worksheet in pairs. Check answers in class.
- Give each student one file folder and have them work with their partners, trying some of the designs that they researched.
- Homework: Structure Homework worksheet (use this same worksheet for several days worth of homework!)

Day 3:

- Share information gathered via the Internet research worksheet together in class.
- Create groups of four or five students to begin sharing ideas, trying some new designs, and planning their structures.
- Homework: Structure Homework worksheet (same sheet as day 2’s homework)

Days 4-7 :

- Hand out 25 file folders to each group. Students need access to scissors, rulers, and paper clips.
- Students work in groups to build their structures in class using white glue and file folders. It is necessary to allow the structures to dry over several days (a weekend is good) before testing them.

Day 8 (This may or may not be directly after day 7 because of drying times.)

- Collect their individual written reports.
- Test the structures.

- How do I divide up 125 students into teams? How many per team works best?

Groups of 4 or 5 work well. Are all of your students in one class period? If so, testing will take some time! If that's the case, maybe increase the size of the group to 8-10. Groups of 4 or 5 give more variety and require more active participation by all students in the team to complete it in the time allowed! I have done this where I have required 25 students to work together to make one structure. The only problem with that is that you don't get the variety but you do see how well they work together!

(4) Do you provide the file folders or do they purchase those themselves?

My school has them available to us. I give each student one to experiment with first and then give them the ones for the project to make sure that they are all the same weight file folder. Note: There are all sorts of them in the stores - some stronger than others! It's important that they all be the same to make the competition fair.

(5) Can teams cut the folders?

YES...they can cut them and use Elmer's white glue. I do let them use paper clips to hold the folders together while they dry but they must remove all of them before testing. Drawing folding lines with a pen (pressing hard) can help when students want to fold the file folders.

(6) I know you said to use weights to measure the strength of the structure, but what weights and by what increments do I increase? I have access to weights from our football weight room, but the smallest weight is a 2.5 lb.

- Those are exactly what we use to test ours. Ours range in weight from 2.5 lbs to 45 lbs. I contact the athletic director and make arrangements to use this area. We go to the weight room to test for strength.
**Photos:**If you want photos of the structures with/without the team members, take the photos at the beginning or begin the video tape.**Measure:**First I measure the height.**Weights:**Each group begins by putting a 25 lb. weight on top of their structure.- Then I have the groups choose what to put on. The team members choose the weights and place them on the structures so I don't (and nobody else will) get accused of putting on the wrong amount or not placing them correctly. Once a weight has been placed on the structure, it cannot be removed and replaced with another...students must use some strategy. A weight must hold for 5 seconds to be counted.
*We take a small marker board and dry erase marker to the weight room to keep a running total of weight being placed on each structure.* - If any weight falls off of the structure or the structure’s height goes below 6 inches above the floor, the testing for that structure is over and the prior weight is recorded-- like in weightlifting competitions.

Note: The most weight held by any team's structure so far is 440 lbs.! The height record is 30 inches.

(7) What resources are there for this project?

I found an awesome book after doing this project for many years:

The Art of Construction: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers and Architects

by Mario Salvadori. Chicago Review Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55652-080-8

It’s an easy read (for ages 10 and up) with many good examples/experiments of ways to help students (and teachers) understand the principles of construction. It is available in paperback for around $13.

Other good resources are:

*Structures: The Way Things are Built* by Nigel Hawkes, Macmillan, USA, 1993

ISBN # 0-02-000510-5

*Amazing Buildings* by Philip Wilkinson, Doriling Kindersley, NewYork, 1993

ISBN # 1-56458-234-5

*Why Design? Activities and Projects from the National Building Museum* by Anna Slafer

and Kevin Cahill, Chicago Review Press, 1995 ISBN # 1-55652-249-5

Structure WebQuest Evaluation

[Introduction] [Task] [Process] [Resources] [Evaluation] [Conclusion] [Teacher Notes]