Super Bridge by PBS
Math, Science & Technology
Intermediate, Commencement, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade
This activity includes instructions for an in-class project about building model bridges and recognizing all the factors that building them incorporates.
Super Bridge Classroom Activity
Public Broadcasting Service: NOVA
To recreate some of the challenges bridge builders face.
Bridge Building Student Handout.pdf
- Copies of "Bridge Building" student handout (attached)
- Coffee can (one per group of students)
- 75 uncooked spaghetti noodles (per group of students)
- 2 m (6.5ft) masking tape (per group of students)
- Standard set of weights (fishing sinkers work well; one set per group of students)
- Six (6) strips of corrugated cardboard (one set per group of students):
- 8 cm x 30 cm (3 in. x 12 in.)
- 8 cm x 50 cm (3 in. x 20 in.)
- 8 cm x 80 cm (3 in. x 31 in.)
- 8 cm x 100 cm (3 in. x 39 in.)
- 8 cm x 120 cm (3 in. x 47 in.)
- 8 cm x 150 cm (3 in. x 59 in.)
- One of the major challenges bridge designers face is constructing towers to support the bridge. In this activity, students build structures that recreate problems bridge builders face.
- Organize students into small teams and distribute the "Bridge Building" student handouts and materials.
- Have students design and build a tower structure using uncooked spaghetti that will support a coffee can. Have them find the maximum length of cardboard road the structure supports, add weights to their structures, and find the maximum road lengths again.
- After each team has completed their structure, have the class compare and analyze each team design. Which design holds the most weight? How could the design that holds the least weight be improved? Which design balances the longest road? Which designs appears to twist and turn under weight? Which designs prevent twisting?
- After analyzing each design, have students suggest two ways they would improve their designs.