September 28, 2021 | Melissa McCallihan
Can you build a tower that will be not only the tallest of the class but also successfully hold an observation deck on the top level? That was the question sixth through eighth grade students faced for their first engineering design challenge of the year. Before their build, students observed and considered incredible engineering feats like Burj Khalifa and horrible engineering failures like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Throughout the project the Engineering Design Process guided their model making.
The Engineering Design Process is not a new concept for most of the middle school students. In previous years they have built a better shoe and created shapes to hold a human. The steps of the process are to ask questions, research for clarifying information, brainstorm ideas, develop and test a model, reflect and refine their model. These are good guidelines when starting any project in science.
For this build there were constraints on materials and on time. A marshmallow at the top was our observation tower. It’s surprising how much a marshmallow can weigh! We were amazed when it toppled some of our builds. We rejoiced for each other when the tower was successful and learned from our mistakes as well. The winner was built by a group of seventh graders. Their tower was 31 inches tall!