The Terrific Tower Challenge

By: Pooja Marella, Chandler Webb, Jada Jackson 4th Period

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Objective

The objective of this activity is to have the tallest tower made out of a marshmallow, tape, spaghetti sticks, and string in under 18 minutes. The objective is also to learn about the dynamics of tower, to understand the interacting forces involved in the process of constructing a tower, and to facilitate group cooperation.

Materials

Materials include 20 uncooked spaghetti sticks, 1 yard of string, 1 yard of scotch tape, 1 meter stick, 1 marshmallow, and 1 pair of scissors.

Procedure

  1. Gather all of the materials needed for the activity.

  2. Criss-cross three spaghetti sticks so that they intersect at one single point and form a 60 degree angle with each other. Tape the sticks at the intersecting point.

  3. Connect each end of the spaghetti sticks with half of a spaghetti stick. Tape together the ends of the spaghetti sticks with the ends of the half spaghetti stick. The base is now complete.

  4. Attach a spaghetti stick to each vertex on the base with tape so that it projects upward. There should be six sticks projecting upward. Connect the top ends of the spaghetti sticks with tape so that the structure appears to be a hexagonal pyramid. Tie string around the taped portion at the top to keep the spaghetti sticks from disconnecting.

  5. Take four spaghetti sticks and tape the bottom of them to the top of the intersecting point of the six connected sticks. Tie string around the four spaghetti sticks at different points to keep them together.

  6. At the top of the four sticks, tape and tie three more spaghetti sticks and place the marshmallow at the top.

  7. The tower must be built in 18 minutes or less and must stand on its own without touching anything else.


Data and Observations

The base had a total perimeter of 75 cm, and was very stable. It had a hexagonal shape, meaning that each side was 12.5 cm, and had three 25 cm spaghetti sticks connecting each vertex of the hexagon to the opposite vertex. The three spaghetti sticks were taped together at their intersection in the base. Projecting from each vertex of the base were six 25 cm spaghetti sticks, which were all taped at one point, which was above the base. At this point the tower stood at about 21 cm tall. On top of the six spaghetti sticks taped on one point were four sticks, which were taped together and tied with string, making the tower about 45 cm, and on top of the four sticks tied together with string were three sticks. At the highest point of the tower was the marshmallow. The building collapsed when the marshmallow was placed at the top, because of its weight. The tower would have stood at 71 cm if it did not collapse.


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Final Product

Error Analysis

Though the base of the tower was stable, when the spaghetti sticks were added vertically, the weight at the top, specifically the marshmallow, would not stand up without falling over onto the table. Even after the time ran out, the builders continued to try to improve the tower so that it would stand up. What the builders realized while they were critiquing the tower they built was that although the base was stable for the height of the six spaghetti sticks combined in the middle, it was not stable when more sticks on top of that were added. They also realized that the mass and gravity of the marshmallow gave it a greater weight, which increased the tension in the spaghetti sticks and caused it to collapse, as the spaghetti sticks were brittle. If the builders were to repeat this lab, they would change their process by not adding more spaghetti sticks vertically after the original six sticks meeting together in the middle. However, if they wanted to improve the height of the tower without its collapsing, they would add more of a supporting structure on top of the base, instead of just six spaghetti sticks projecting from the base. They would add more of a supporting structure by doing steps 1-3, and then vertically connecting a spaghetti stick to each vertex of the base with tape, and then crossing a spaghetti stick from the vertex of each base to the end of the vertically projected spaghetti stick on the adjacent vertex of the base, so that an X could be seen above each side of the base. From there steps 4 and 5 would be done and the marshmallow would be on top of the tower after step 5. Step 6 would be omitted, and step 7 would be followed.

Conclusion

The builders did not meet the objective of building the tallest tower made out of a marshmallow, tape, spaghetti sticks, and string in under 18 minutes. However, the builders met the objective in learning that a tower must have a strong base in order to support the weight at the top, and must also have a strong supporting structure above the base. The builders also learned that in order to build a tower one must first understand the interacting forces, such as gravity and the weight coming from the top of the tower, in this case the marshmallow. Most of all, the builders learned how to work together in order to get the job done, and each member in the group helped build the tower and helped make the plan for the tower.


Application

Some well-known towers are the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world at 828 meters, and the Empire State building, at 381 meters. The Burj Khalifa is made out of concrete and steel, which are very hardy and durable materials. The Empire State building is made out of steel. Other towers with interesting shapes are the Shanghai World Financial Center, which was constructed with a composite material, as well as the Al Hamra tower, which was constructed with concrete. If the builders were given a chance to repeat the challenge, they would have more support near the top of the tower which holds the marshmallow, as many of the towers researched had support near the top of the building. The tower constructed with spaghetti sticks was most like the Burj Khalifa, as it had a relatively large base, and it became skinnier as it reached the top. The limiting factor of the tower built for the tower challenge was the marshmallow, as its weight caused the tower to collapse. However, the building material that impeded a successful final product was the string, as it enabled the builders to keep the spaghetti sticks together and enabled the sticks to not break apart. Because the building material was not strong enough to sustain the marshmallow’s weight, if a material could be changed, it would be the spaghetti sticks, as they are too fragile and brittle. The spaghetti sticks could not support the tension coming from the marshmallow’s weight. Many of the tallest towers in the world are built with steel and concrete, which are strong materials that can support large weights. If possible, the spaghetti sticks would be replaced with twigs, as they can support more weight than spaghetti sticks can.


Our tower is most like...

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The Burj Khalifa