Straw Bridges

Monday, March 17

By Bori Kim

Before the girls came in the Room 215, I had all the materials set on the table. Straws. Tapes. Paper Clips. Pennies and Paper Cup. The girls started to come in then asked me, “Ms. Bori, what are we doing today?” “What is all this?” Just by looking at the materials, the girls got excited for the day. “We are building something. You are going to be an engineer today.” The girls kept asking, “So what are we making or building?” I had to calm them down little bit. We had to set up the account on ForAll Badges before having the girls do the activity.

Design & Build

Design & Build

ForAll Badges is a digital rewarding program for K-12 students. There are criteria that students need to meet by doing science in order to earn a badge. The following activity that we have done meets the “Discover Building Models” badge criteria by designing the stable straw bridges. Let me walk you through our playful science!

I assigned three or four girls in one group so we had two groups to design and build stable straw brides. Each group was only allowed to have 20 straws and tape. No more than 20 straws. Nothing more than tapes. Since straws cannot hold heavy objects, the girls had to come up with the ways for straw bridges to hold an 8 oz cup of pennies and paper clips, using only tape and straws. Oh, they had only 20 minutes to work! In the beginning everyone was in hurry to build it fast. Then I reminded them, “Remember, your bridge needs to hold this cup of pennies and paper clips,” showing a 8oz cup of pennies and paper clips in it. The girls were trying to rearrange the straws to make it stable enough. One girl asked me if she could get more straws. “No, you only have 20 straws and tape. That is all you need,” I responded. The clock was ticking and they had to finish up.

"Science is not just facts on a thick book, but it has become real-life experience."

“Science is not just facts on a thick book, but it has become real-life experience.”

“Time’s up, ladies! Let’s set your bridge between chairs then we will drop pennies and paper clips. Who wants to be a penny dropper?” Amoriana volunteered for her group and Peyten for her group. “Let’s count it as Gabby drops clips and pennies.” The girls were counting and they were very excited to see if the bridge would fall down or not. See what happened; the bridge Gabby and her group peers designed did not collapse! The bridge was holding the cup until the end!

Next turn, it was time for Peyten’s group. They weren’t confident as they dropped the pennies and paper clips. “Please, do not criticize yourself. It is okay even if it falls down. We always need to try first and see what happens.” I told the girls. The bridge eventually fell down, but it was learning experience. As a closing, we discussed why Gabby’s bridge stayed between chairs and why not Peyten’s. We learned that it has to have a firm base at the bottom, especially at the center since the bridges we made had to hold the 8oz cup with weight in it. By designing and building the straw bridges, the girls were able to experience real-world science. For us, science is not boring anymore. Not just facts written down on a thick book, but science has become real-life experience!


In the World of S4S Calumet…Little Engineers!!

Last week, the lovely ladies of S4S Calumet put on their thinking caps and became little engineers. The girls learned about different kinds of bridges, such as a Truss bridge. They also learned “bridge engineer” jargon, as well as definitions and where it would be used in the construction of a bridge. Words such as deck, beam, truss, load, live load, and dead load.

The girls then broke up into two groups and brainstormed for about five minutes on ways to construct their straw bridge so that it would securely hold a cup with at least 25 paper clips.

photo 1-2  photo 2-1

After building for about 15 minutes, we measured the length and width of each bridge, and began our cup and paper clip testing.

photo 1-3  photo 1-4

The first bridge only held five paper clips before the cup tipped over, and the winning bridge held a whopping 26 paper clips before falling over!

photo 2-3  Winning Bridge!! Winning Bridge!!

All of the girls successfully earned the Discovering Communication badge for their constant questions, input and correlations!

Stay tuned for more in the world of S4S Calumet!