Collaborating to Design and Build Stable Structures
Lesson Objective: Work together to build, test, and present stable structures
Grades 9-12 / Science / Physics

Thought starters

  1. What is the effect of Ms. Banks calling her students engineers?
  2. How do students apply their prior knowledge when constructing structures?
  3. What do students learn from presenting their ideas to each other?
13 Comments
This clip made me wonder about how current engineers developed into engineers. What learning experiences did they have in school and at home? And at what age did they know and feel that engineering was a possibility for them? Do most current engineers have parents who are engineers or mathematically inclined? What percentage of the students in the video will go on to pursue engineering or some other technical field as a career? If the students choose not to pursue engineering as a career, can they take the skill set they learn in physics class and apply it in other fields/careers? I have more questions than answers. I guess what I am getting at is that children of engineers or the mathematically inclined have a distinct advantage over those who do not. The same can be said for children of doctors, bakers, fisherman, businessman, etc...
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Thanks for sharing this - great lesson, well done .....do you have a link to the webquests for this lesson? Thanks
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Daniel, interesting thoughts. Only 1 of the students you saw in the video expressed an interest in pursuing a career in engineering. Many students feel that they are not capable of such a degree, I feel that they shortchange themselves. About half of the students in the video know that they want to go into either the medical field or scientific research, but they view engineering as something that is too difficult. I think they need to be exposed to some engineering concepts in the secondary classroom so that they can see that its all a process that is achievable.
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Gay, please email me at shelia.banks@jppss.k12.la.us and I will send you the complete module from where this lesson came.
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Thanks Sheila - I have emailed you! :)
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Transcripts

  • ECET - Lesson Idea Florida - Shelia Darjean Banks –
    Collaborating to Design and Build Stable Structures
    Program Transcript

    Shelia Banks

    ECET - Lesson Idea Florida - Shelia Darjean Banks –
    Collaborating to Design and Build Stable Structures
    Program Transcript

    Shelia Banks (Interview):
    The Common Core standard that was embedded into today's lesson was for students to synthesize information from a variety of sources. Before doing today's lesson, the students had learned about forces, they had learned about gravity and normal force that acts against gravity. They had been exposed to several web quests where they can record notes and where they answer questions and there's space in there for them to list important terms. They had investigated a journal article and identified many terms, and all of that came together today in their attempt to design a bridge.

    Shelia Banks:
    Today you are gonna do a hands-on activity. We're finally getting to that point where we are gonna start constructing our bridges. You guys are engineers. Okay? You may have come here as a student, but the minute you walk through room 201, you became an engineer.

    Shelia Banks (Interview):
    Before we begin the activity, I have a discussion with the students about what makes buildings strong, about how engineers have to come together, and about how knowledge is created sometimes just by thinking outside of the box.

    Shelia Banks:
    And when you think about a building, what makes a building strong?

    Student:
    The base.

    Shelia Banks:
    The base. Okay. That can be related to the foundation.

    Student:
    Materials?

    Shelia Banks:
    Materials! Yeah, it kind of matters what something is made of. Okay? Today you're gonna be using paper to build a structure. Paper's weak, isn't it?

    Student:
    Right.
    Banks:
    Right, but when used in the right way, we can make almost any structure stronger. So you are gonna design and construct a structure that will support the force of as many textbooks as possible. The physics textbooks.

    Banks (Interview):
    To perform this activity, each team will receive twenty drinking straws, ten sheets of paper, twenty paper clips, a roll of tape, and one pair of scissors. Each team has three minutes to plan their procedure, they had fifteen minutes to build, and then they had two minutes to decide what they were gonna present to the class.

    Student:
    So what I'm saying is if you lay 'em down, it might be able to hold up all the books.

    Student:
    I'm 'a step on-- when you make the next one, put 'em right there, and I'm 'a step on 'em. If it can support me, I'm pretty sure it can support every book in this room.

    Banks (Interview):
    I was pleasantly surprised to see that after they had completed their web quest that they understood the importance of shapes in their structural designs. I noticed a lot of groups trying to incorporate triangles into their structures because they had gleaned from their web quests that they performed on their own that the triangle is of upmost important in construction.

    Student:
    She said that the triangles-- It held more, so-- No. You know how we had four columns last time? We can make just three.

    Banks:
    All right, so everybody stop. So you only have three minutes. You have your plan. Next, you're gonna actually build.

    Student:
    They're the same. This one needs to be taped.

    Student:
    No, we're gonna use both of 'em. We can do it like this. We can wrap another paper around like that.

    Banks (Interview):
    I have the students present their ideas to the entire class as opposed to just discussing within their teams for the purpose of building on ideas.

    Student:
    So, what we did. We took two sheets of paper and rolled it up and put as many straws as we can inside the paper. And tape the tape around the paper, and then we have one book standing.

    Banks:
    All right. So, so far, everybody sees the one book, right? Let's up the ante. Put another book on it.

    Student:
    Put it on softly.

    Banks:
    We've got two books. Okay? Let's put another book.

    Banks:
    Good job guys. So, when I was walking around, I did notice a commonality among all the groups. Most of you said it, but I didn't see it in everyone's structure. I kept hearing, it has to be even. We saw what happens when we have an uneven base. It wobbles way too much. Okay? Let me relate this to your bridge project. Okay? We've been working on bridges, you've done your web quest, so you know a lot about how materials, and how things are built to withstand forces. Do you want a bridge to be able to move?

    Student:
    You want it to flex.

    Student:
    It's supposed to sway a little.

    Banks:
    Thank you. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. That bridge is what type of bridge?

    Student:
    Suspension bridge.

    Banks:
    Suspension. Right. We discussed this. A suspension bridge should be able to sway and wobble just a little bit, in case what happens?
    Students:
    An earthquake.

    Banks:
    An earthquake happens.

    Banks (Interview):
    After the team presentations, the students were actually allowed to go back into the design process to fix basically what had gone wrong.

    Banks:
    What improvements are you making?

    Student:
    We're gonna take four of these each. I mean, like, it's gonna four of these, but it's gonna be three. Like a triangle. And see if that's gonna help.

    Banks:
    So you mean a triangle, like one column here and two here?

    Banks:
    You find is easier the second time around?

    Student:
    Yes.

    Banks:
    Okay. Can you elaborate?

    Student:
    You know what to do and what not to do.

    Banks:
    Okay.

    Student:
    The columns weren't thick enough to support the weight.

    Banks:
    Okay.

    Banks (Interview):
    By incorporating the Common Core state standards into science classrooms, something as simple as doing a web quest all of sudden has meaning, because they're taking that knowledge that they got from the web quest and building on that to create something bigger. My students and I now look at a bigger picture. We're studying forces and designing and engineering and we're putting all of that together. It just opened the door up for new activities in the classroom.

School Details

John Ehret High School
4300 Patriot Street
Marrero LA 70072
Population: 1987

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Shelia Darjean Banks

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