Sunday, August 8

Straw Bridge STEM Challenge

Building bridges out of straws is a popular STEM challenge among elementary school teachers and a HUGE favorite among students.  In this straw bridge STEM activity, your students will be handed a bundle of straws, a pair of scissors, and a roll of clear tape.  Their objective... to design and construct a bridge that can span a distance of one foot and bear a reasonable amount of weight without collapsing.  Can it be done?  If so, who will build the strongest bridge in your class?

Straw Bridge STEM Challenge: Who Built the Strongest Bridge?

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.



For this STEM activity, your students will need:


STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
This simple straw bridge spans a distance of one foot...

Before sending your students off to design and build their straw bridges, you may need to take the time to review and/or introduce a few geometry and math concepts that can help them with the design process:
  • types of angles (acute, obtuse, and right)
  • two-dimensional shapes
  • three-dimensional shapes
  • units of weight

STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
...and can support the weight of this rock.

Directions

  1. Hand your students a bundle of 15 straws, a roll of clear tape, and some scissors. They can work independently or with a partner.  
  2. Give your students 20 to 30 minutes to design and construct their bridges.  The ONLY items they can use are straws, clear tape, and scissors.  They can cut the straws into smaller pieces if they'd like.  It is up to you to decide if you are willing to give them additional straws if they run out.  (I always do!)
  3. When the time is up, test each bridge with the rocks or weights to see how much weight it will hold.  Talk about the things that were successful and brainstorm strategies to make each bridge stronger.
  4. Give your students an additional 20 to 30 minutes to modify their designs and make any changes.  Then test the bridges again!

    STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.
    However... this straw bridge collapses under the weight of this rock.

    STEM activity. Build a bridge using only drinking straws and tape. Must be capable of bearing a reasonable amount of weight.

    How can we improve this straw bridge's design... my cat wants to know!

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