You are on page 1of 13

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering

Week 1
Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1 – Civil Engineering

Day What we’re doing in class What we’re doing outside What’s the learning target?
of class
Tower of Marsh Challenge Read “What is Civil 1. I can summarize what
January 28th Friday January 27th Thursday January 26th Wednesday January 25th Tuesday January 24th Monday

Begin Structures Facts Notes & Engineering?” civil engineering is.

Bring in a box of spaghetti
and an empty shoe box
(need by Wednesday)

Reading Quiz – “What is Civil 2. I can describe the

Engineering?” different forces that
act on a large structure.
Finish Structures Facts Notes &
Worksheet 3. I can describe how
shapes affect the
strength of structures.

Build pieces to test forces 4. I can demonstrate and

test the different
Begin Research and design of tower forces that act on a
large structure.

Finish design & design approval 5. I can apply my

knowledge of structures
to design and build a
tower with a minimum
efficiency of 100.

Begin building tower 5. I can apply my

knowledge of structures
to design and build a
tower with a minimum
efficiency of 100.

Learning Targets
1. I can summarize what civil engineering is.
2. I can describe the different forces that act on a large structure.
3. I can describe how shapes affect the strength of structures.
4. I can demonstrate and test the different forces that act on a large structure.
5. I can apply my knowledge of structures to design 2and build a tower with a minimum efficiency of 100.
Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

What is Civil Engineering?

As written by the Department of Civil Engineering at UNM

Civil Engineering is considered to be the oldest engineering field. Civil Engineering includes the planning, design,
construction, maintenance, and operation of the infrastructure that surrounds us and is the underpinning of our
society. Our infrastructure includes roads, airports, railroads, buildings, bridges, water and wastewater treatment
plants, sewers, drainage, flood control, water supply, landfills, and many other facilities. Most everything civil
engineers do affects our daily lives in many ways.

When you get up in the morning and take a shower and brush your teeth, the water comes from a water treatment
plant through a network of pipes, designed by civil engineers. The dirty water leaves your house through a sewer
and ends up at a wastewater treatment plant designed by civil engineers where it is treated and released to a
nearby stream or river. When you go to school or work, the roads you drive on and bridges you might cross were
designed by civil engineers. The inlet drains along the curbs and gutters which carry away rainfall were designed by
civil engineers. The structure or skeleton of the building you attend classes in or work in was designed by a civil
engineer, as well as its foundation. Even the electricity you use was brought to you over transmission lines, whose
towers were designed by civil engineers. The garbage you carried out to the trashcan is transported to a sanitary
landfill, which was designed by a civil engineer. There are many more such examples of how civil engineering is
involved in our daily lives.

What does it take to be a civil engineer?

In general, engineers are people who enjoy the challenge of solving problems, who like to do things rather than just
talk about them. They want to be part of the solution and enjoy working with people as part of a team. For
starters, an aptitude for math and science is helpful, but just as important is an ability to work with other people,
to speak and write well, and to demonstrate leadership skills. Civil engineers work in teams with other engineers,
technicians, and office staff. They may also work with economists, social scientists, geologists, biologists,
chemists, and many other professionals. Civil engineers work with the general public to a much greater degree than
any other type of engineer. Many projects are publicly funded and require public input, such as meetings and
hearings. This means the engineer must learn to clearly communicate technical information to clients and the
general public, learn to think on his/her feet, and keep cool under pressure.

Where do civil engineers work?

Most civil engineers work for consulting firms (which design projects and produce plans and specifications for
building them) or government agencies (ranging from cities to the federal government). Some might join the
military or work for manufacturers (such as pump, pipe, or steel building manufacturers). Initially in their careers,
most civil engineers work on design, but generally as they gain more responsibility, they manage projects and do
little engineering design. Other areas in which civil engineers work include sales, teaching, and research.

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

Tall Tower Challenge

Tall Structures
The CN Tower (picture to the left), located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a
communications and observation tower standing 553.3 meters tall. It was recognized
as the tallest free-standing structure on land in the world for 31 years until it was
recently surpassed in height by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The Burj Khalifa was built in 2009 and is 828 meters high. The third tallest is the
Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears
Tower) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.,which
stands at 527 m (1,729.0 ft) when
measured to its pinnacle, The tallest
wooden structure is the Gliwice Radio
Tower in Poland, which stands at 118
meters high and was built in 1935. The
chart to the right shows the height
comparison between the Burj Khalifa, the
CN Tower, and the Willis Tower.
In January 2010, the world’s highest outdoor
observation deck located in Burj Khalifa, has
opened to the public. Hundreds of people, mostly
families, queued up for tickets to Level 124 of Burj
Khalifa – and the chance of being among the first to
experience its stunning views across the city. The
view is said to be similar to what you might see
from an airplane. The ascent to the 124th floor is
by a double-deck elevator, each deck carrying up to
14 people and traveling at 10 meters per second.
In less than a minute, the elevator reaches the
observation deck, the world’s only public
observatory at this height with an outdoor terrace.
High windows circle the entire viewing platform,
and visitors can scan the horizon and the distant
streets below through computerized viewfinders,
which also have pre-programmed day and
nighttime vistas of the city and surrounding region.

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

To build the highest free-standing tower using only marshmallows and toothpicks to support a ping pong ball.

Each group will be given one 10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows, two boxes of flat toothpicks, and a standard ping
pong ball. Nothing else may be used on this challenge.

1. There may be up two students in each group, one is to be designated as captain.

2. Each team may build one or more towers but the highest tower will count for the team score. The height
of the tower will be measured to the top of the ping pong ball.

3. The maximum height of the tower will be limited to the floor to ceiling distance in the classroom.

4. The structure must be unmoving for five seconds before the height of the tower will be recorded.

5. Marshmallows and toothpicks may be manipulated in any fashion.

6. Teams are encouraged to call for measurements as they progress. If time is an issue, the captain must tell
the judges which tower to measure.

7. The tower will be measured to the nearest 0.5 cm.

8. Each group will have one class period to build their tower. If you have no measurements before the time is
up, you will receive a score of 25 points.

Planning & Design:

Think about the different ways you can manipulate toothpicks and marshmallows. You may cut, rip, or break any of
them, but are not allowed to use tape or other connecting materials. In the box below, draw the plan of your

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

Construction Phase:
Build your tower and test it to see if it can support the golf ball. Then, answer the questions below:
1. How similar was your design to the actual tower you built? What changes did you make?

2. If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, describe why your team decided
to make revisions.

3. Did you use all the parts provided to you? Were any of the parts used only to increase the height of the

Complete the evaluation questions below:
1. Describe the shape or construction of the tower that was the tallest and won the challenge? How was this
tower different from yours, if yours did not win?

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

2. If you had a chance to do this project again, what would your team have done differently?

3. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work
alone on it? Why?

4. If you could have used one additional material (tape, glue, wood sticks, foil – as examples) which would you
choose and why?

5. Do you think that once a building is designed and approved for construction that many aspects are changed
during the building process? Why or why not?

6. How long do you think it will take before a building is constructed that surpasses the height of the Burj
Khalifa? Where do you think it will be built? Why?

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1
The highest tower will receive a maximum score of 50 out of a possible 50 points. Second place receives maximum
of 45 points, third place receives a maximum of 40 points, fourth place and all other contenders will receive
maximum of 35 points. Non-participation will result in a grade of between 0 and 30 points at my discretion.
Demerits will be given for taking material from the room and/or throwing marshmallows or other improper

Structures Facts Sheet

Information about Forces:
Go to this webpage ( in order to determine how each
of the forces listed below acts on a large structure.

Forces How does it act on a large structure?






Properties of different materials:

Below is a list of materials. Using the webpage listed below, write down the advantages and disadvantages of using
each type of material. (

Material Advantages Disadvantages


Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1







How Shape Affects Structures:

The shape affects the strength of a structure. The most common shapes used in construction are triangles,
rectangles, and arches. Below, write a brief description of the effect of weight on each shape. To illustrate how
the same heavy weight affects different shapes, imagine how the weight of elephants would affect a rectangle, a
triangle, and an arch that are about the same size. Use the following webpage for assistance.

Shape Observations (structure bends, structure breaks, etc.)




What does it mean for a structure to have a load? Below are the different types of load that exist. Write out
what each of the types of load is using this site. (

Force that acts Type of Load

Weight of structure

Weight of objects

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1
Soft soil





Testing the Forces on Structures

There are five forces that are taken into account when talking about structures. You will be building different
pieces of a tower and testing them for two of the five forces.

The first step is to build the pieces. As it is a relatively cheap substance and one that is easy to manipulate, we
will be using spaghetti and glue to hold it together. There are 12 different pieces that can be used to secure a
tower. Draw a picture of each of them in the table below.

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1

Using your spaghetti and a small amount of glue, build two of each of these pieces. Once they have dried, you will
be testing them to see how they react to forces acting on them.

Testing for Forces

Testing for Bending

• Spaghetti pieces
• Spring scale

1. Place your spaghetti piece at the end of the table so that ¾ of the piece hangs over the edge.
2. Place a heavy book on top of the ¼ piece of spaghetti in order to hold it down.
3. Slide the spring scale onto the piece of the spaghetti so that the hook is facing the ground.
4. Pull on the spring scale until the spaghetti piece breaks. Write down the force (in Newtons)
that the spaghetti held before breaking.
5. Repeat these steps with each of your pieces.

Piece Force for bending Force for _____________

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1
This data will be used to help you design and build a tower. You will want to build a tower that has the highest
efficiency. What this means is that it can hold the highest mass and has a very low mass. Therefore, if a piece
with a smaller mass can withstand the same force, it would be more beneficial to use the less mass piece.

Spaghetti Tower Building

Purpose: To design and build a tower with the highest efficiency.

Materials: Spaghetti and Glue

• The tower shall not be coated with any material.
• The base of the tower must be constructed so that it spans a 200mm x 200mm
square hole in the testing platform.
• The tower must be designed to support a 50mm x 50mm x 20mm loading block a
minimum of 275 mm above the testing platform.
• The tower must be a minimum of 275 mm. There is no maximum height.

Testing: The tower will support a loading bucket that will be filled with up to a maximum of 20-kg.

Scoring: The score will be determined by the Structural Efficiency:

Load Supported (grams) / Mass of Tower (grams)

Science Topics – Inventions & Engineering
Week 1
Towers that can not support the empty bucket or have building violations will receive a zero

For the spaghetti tower project, you will be scored on participation as well as your tower’s efficiency. Participation
means working on your project throughout the time allotted to you in class.

Participation Tower Score

1/26 ______/10 Weight of Tower ________ g
1/27 ______/10 Weight Held ________ g
1/28 ______/10
1/31 ______/10 Efficiency ________
2/1 ______/10
2/2 ______/10
2/3 ______/10

Total _____/70 Total _______/100

TOTAL ______/170