Using their knowledge of structures and the forces acting on them, eighth grade physical science students at St. Michael’s Country Day School were challenged to construct the strongest tower they could using only popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.
In class, the students learned how compression, tension, and Newton’s Third Law of Motion all affect how much weight their tower could bear.
The towers were to be a minimum of forty centimeters tall with a maximum weight of 150 grams. After designing and constructing the towers in the classroom, they were put to the test during a school-wide exhibition to determine which structure could hold the most weight.
With the help of their teacher, Emlen Drayton, the students each took a turn placing their towers on a metal bar. Circular weights were then slid down the bar and rested on top of the tower. Additional weights were added until the structure collapsed.
The strongest tower was designed by Sierra Love and Laura Husak, and held 450 pounds. Mr. Drayton noted that the girls’ design was conceived and executed with little change, and proved to be very strong. The school record is 638 pounds, which was 2,800 times the structure’s weight.