Time
bullet40-minute exploration
bullet20-minute discussion

Preparation
bulletCollect 8-1/2-by-11 -inch scrap paper.
bulletSet out materials.

Groupings
bulletPairs or small groups

Materials
(per pair or group)
bullet5 sheets of paper
bulletBox of large paper clips
bulletSmall weights, including pennies, film canisters filled with sand, etc.
bulletYardstick or meterstick
bulletOptional: 1 scale for the entire class


 

 

Paper Bridges

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Context

Building with inherently weak materials like paper quickly leads to a close consideration of the structural elements and properties of materials. There is an element of surprise, which increases students' interest in the physics, when they discover just how strong they can make this seemingly flimsy material. This activity is easily set up and gives students a chance to explore the material as a lead-in to further building. Building bridges emphasizes the concepts involved in carrying weight at a distance from the supports.

This activity provides a good opportunity to ask students to talk about bridges and cantilevers that they know. There are many bridges around to talk about. They range from monuments like the Golden Gate or Brooklyn bridges to simple logs thrown across a creek. Examples of cantilevers include balconies, awnings hanging in front of buildings, branches on trees, or even our arms when we hold them out. Discussion of examples like these invite your students to bring their own experience into the understanding of building out.


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