This activity introduces K-12 students to earthquake engineering concepts by allowing them to build structures and test them on an educational shake table. The competition is broken down into four different age groups, with separate rules and introductions for each age level.
· Grades K-3: Construct a tower using gumdrops and toothpicks that is less than 13 in tall. This age group can also be called the “family” age group because the students need assistance from either a parent or volunteer. Towers are tested by stacking weights on the structures until they collapse. This competition takes about two hours to complete.
· Grades 4-6: Construct a medium building using gumdrops and toothpicks (30 in tall). Students build their structures either in a group or independently. Each building is loaded with a 1 kg weight and tested on the shake table to see if it will withstand an earthquake. This competition takes about three hours to complete.
· Grades 7-8: Construct a medium building using balsa wood (2 ft tall). Students work in groups of 2-3. Judging is based on total material cost (measured by the weight of the structure), total building income (measured by the usable floor space), and the size earthquake it resists. This competition takes place over two days to allow the glue to dry. Students need about four hours to construct the building, and each structure takes about 10 minutes to test.
· Grades 9-12: Construct a large building using balsa wood (3 ft tall). Students work in groups of 2-3. Judging is based on total material cost (measured by the weight of the structure), total building income (measured by the usable floor space), and the size earthquake it resists. This competition takes place over two days to allow the glue to dry. Students need about five hours to construct the building, and each structure takes about 10 minutes to test.
Students will learn how to construct buildings using various materials to withstand earthquakes. This activity was designed for an educational shake table, and the cost of the table is not included in these estimates. Both cost and group size depend on the grade level, and is broken down as follows:
- Grades K-3: Work with parent or volunteer. About $5 per group.
- Grades 4-6: Groups of 1-2. About $10 per group.
- Grades 7-8: Groups of 2-3. About $20 per group.
- Grades 9-12: Groups of 2-3. About $30 per group.
Earthquake Engineering Component
Students will learn how to make structures to withstand earthquakes. Specifically, they will learn that diagonal bracing and "triangle shapes" will dramatically improve a building's performance under both static and dynamic loading. The hands-on activity allows students to easily observe how to improve building performance and how this can help people survive after a devastating earthquake.
Learning Objectives and Standards
The learning objectives vary with each age level, and the Nevada standards were used to develop the activity. The standards used are listed in each grade packet.
The materials vary with each age level and the materials needed for each activity are listed in each grade packet.
The procedure varies with each age level and are listed in each grade packet.
Links and Resources
- Gum drops can be purchased in bulk from Blaire Candy Company at http://www.blaircandy.com/. I used the small spiced gum drops (code 31663).
- Toothpicks can be purchased in bulk from Amazon.com. I purchased a 24 pack of 250 ct Diamond Square Center Toothpicks.
- Balsa wood can be purchased in bulk from National Balsa at http://www.nationalbalsa.com/. I bought the 1/8x1/4x36 balsa wood (item code 181436)
- Clothespins can be purchased in bulk from Amazon.com. I purchased the Honey-Can-Do Dry-01376 Wood Clothespins with Spring, 100-pack.
- Flexible magnets to be used as floor weights can be purchased from McMaster-Carr at http://www.mcmaster.com/. I purchased 30 feet of the Flexible Magnetic Strip, Plain Black, 1/16" Thick, 3" Width (item number 5699K28).
- Other items such as rulers, tape measures, wood glue, calculators, and pencils were purchased at Wal-Mart.
The assessment varies with each age level and an assessment sheet is included at the end of each grade packet.
The activty could be coupled with the Make Your Own Earthquake activity, a tour of a shake table laboratory, or videos of earthquake testing to further the relevance of the project.
This activity could easily be used for undergraduate or graduate students by increasing the size and complexity of the structures.
Cite this work
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