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Pipe-Cleaner Towers

pipe cleanersIn this short, fun activity for students in grades 2 to 12, teams learn about the engineering design process, including constraints on time and materials, by building the tallest free-standing tower out of pipe-cleaners.

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Feature: Barkitecture

doghouseThe Austin Barkitecture competition calls on local builders to design trendy doghouses, which are then bid on in an auction. Proceeds go to local charitable groups and community members for veterinary care, spay/neuter surgeries, and community outreach.

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Lesson: Concrete for Kids

concrete1Concrete for Kids is a fun, hands-on activity to introduce students to engineering and concrete as an engineered material that engineers use to make the structures we use every day, including bridges, buildings, and roads. In this two-period lesson, teams of students in grades K-12 mix and pour concrete to form beams which, once hardened, are tested to see how much weight they can hold before breaking.

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Lesson: Design a Sturdy Paper Table

Paper TableIn this lesson, students in grades 4-7 explore the engineering design process by building a table out of tubes of newspaper that is strong enough to hold a heavy book. They learn to brainstorm, test, evaluate, and redesign their tables to support more weight and figure out how to keep the table legs from buckling.

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Activity: Build an Earthquake-proof Structure

StrawsStudents in grades 6-12 are challenged to build a drinking straw tower that can withstand simulated earthquake vibrations and increasing weight and pressure. Doing so, they learn basic principles of design and earthquake engineering while practicing team skills.

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Activity: Build a Paper Tower

Rolling Newspaper for Building a Paper TowerStudents in grades 5-12 try to build the tallest structure they can using only two sheets of newspaper. As they do so, they learn about building design.

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Exhibit: Designing Tomorrow. Washington, DC. Oct 2010-July 2011


The Designing Tomorrow exhibit at the National Building Museum, in Washington, D.C., October 2, 2010 -July 10, 2011, explores the modernist spectacles of architecture and design Americans witnessed at the nation’s world’s fairs between 1933 and 1940 — visions of a brighter future during the worst economic crisis the United States had known. The fairs popularized modern design for the American public and promoted the idea of science and consumerism as salvation from the Great Depression.

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Contest: Design a Sustainable House

Green LivingThe Sustainable Dream House Contest invites students in grades 5-8 and 9-12 to design a residential home that a family of four could comfortably live in that takes advantage of sustainable design concepts such as energy efficiency, reusable natural resources, the sun and much more. Winners will have a chance to present their submission in Washington, D.C. during the USA Science and Engineering Festival – Expo on the National Mall, October 23 and 24, 2010. Submission deadline: September 15, 2010.

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Activity: Leaning Tower of Pasta

towers pic1Using spaghetti and marshmallows, students in grades 5 – 7 experiment with different structures to determine which ones can handle the greatest amount of load. Their experiments help them understand compression and tension forces in relation to the strength of structures.

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