Gummy Tower (Sample Hands-on STEM Activity)


Activity based on “Leaning Tower of Pasta” Source: Digital Library, TeachEngineering,

How do really tall buildings stay up? How can buildings support people?

How do sky scrapers resist wind?

Engineers work with architects and scientists to understand what makes materials break. They use what they learn to design strong structures. Engineers may be able to find very strong materials but they cannot use them in a structure because the materials are too expensive.

Structural engineers are a key part of the design and construction team, working alongside architects and other professionals. Together they create all kinds of structures from houses, stadiums, hospitals, bridges, oil rigs, space satellites, and so on!

Structural engineers are specialists in design, construction, repair, conversion and conservation. They are concerned with all aspects of a structure and its stability.

Source: The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE)."

How to Become a Structural Engineer

. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.

Just like an engineer, today you will be constrained!

Using limited materials, your job is to design and build a structure that is as tall and strong as possible, using only gummy bears and toothpicks.

Think about what forces will be acting upon your structure

Compression is when parts are


together Tension is when parts are pulled apart Load is the weight or mass a structure supports

Is it better to have the toothpick or a gummy bear under tension? Under compression? Is it better to have the toothpick or a gummy bear under compression?

How will you design the tallest, strongest structure using limited resources?

Break into Groups of 4 Evaluate Materials Take 10 minutes and build the tallest and strongest structure possible Brainstorm designs for your structure

How tall was your structure?

How much weight did you put on your structure before it fell?

Why do you think some buildings held more weight than others before falling?

What materials would you choose next time if you were to build a structure? Why?