Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seismic-Safe Buildings!

"Cause it's all about the base, about the base...no tremble!"

This is the adaptation to the popular song that my 8th graders are singing in class as they work busily to construct a tower that can withstand seismic activities on the shake table. On Thursday, October 16th, students were given their latest engineering challenge that connects to our Earth Science study.

The general prompt is:

Create a model building that can withstand various types of seismic waves on our shake table.
The building must be taller than 30 cm, lighter than 3 pounds, and have a base between 225 cm squared and 324 cm squared. Students also need to have a base floor and a top floor that can support a 100 g mass. All this has to be created from materials such as popsicle sticks, cardboard, tape, and straws. Students can "purchase" extra materials, like additional duct tape, marshmallows, Legos, littleBits components, and more with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Of course, they are welcome to bring in other materials. Awards will be given for creativity, withstanding the most force, and being the tallest structure. Students also can get bonus points for utilizing our littleBits components in their design. For example, students can set up buzzers, lights, timers, motion sensors, and more!

Setting students up for this challenge:

This involved some beginning research with some great apps and web resources. To learn about earthquakes and seismic waves, we viewed a National Geographic video and shared ideas on Schoology:

Then, we explored earthquakes with the US Geological Survey site, and students found other on-line resources to add to their understanding. Our book has a phenomenal section on how to design seismic proof building. So, that was another fantastic resource! After all the research, students used their Blogger app to write up posts. 

Here are a few sample posts:

Ready to build and diving in:

This is were we are currently working...
Students were thrilled to begin testing their ideas and building! Just building...using tools...working together. What a cool environment the lab became! I watched students using math to measure, figure out the area of their base, and negotiate purchases with their @lacrossescience Builder Bucks. Students are now assembling and shaking their buildings to test the sturdiness. They are modifying designs and working together to brainstorm solutions. One of the best parts...power tools and saws! Students are loving the process of building! One student even gave me a demonstration of how to use the compass app as a level! Nifty little trick that I didn't know about! Check this out HERE!

These are just some of the snapshots of the classroom! 

Where do we go from here?

As students build and test their designs, I will continually ask them to think aloud, share, and develop those STEM skills. Questions relating to area, types of seismic waves, electronic configurations, and more will be thrown at the students! As students work, they will develop a Keynote presentation sharing their design with text, images, and video of the building on the shake table. While the buildings are on the shake table, we will use an app called iSeismometer to gauge our force. We will also utilize the SloPro app to closely evaluate the structures movements. From this experience, students will work through a Nearpod lesson in which we finalize the concept.

I can't wait to share our shake table competition on Friday with the student Keynote presentations!

Interested in this activity? The Ohio Department of Education has a great resource HERE.

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