The outcomes are considered against the national curriculum and can be easily worked into providing reporting against descriptions.
There are a number of applications across STEM KLA groups, so we’ll break it down into each.
First, a list of equipment:
- Bridge Constructor free iPad and Android app
- Paddlepop sticks
- Glue (PVC is fine, though you might prefer something stronger)
- String - nylon, 1.5mm in thickness
- A 10 litre bucket
- 2 tables, equal height
The basic project is for students to construct a bridge from basic materials using a number of possible designs and test it for weight carrying capacity.
Students can use the construction process and data to analyse their project outcome, a few of which we can explore here, and others you may know or find out along the way.
Preferably, ask students how they could measure, analyse and explore data!
There might be some strange answers – run with it and see what you come up with!
Start with Bridge Constructor – a lesson on basic techniques, principles and ideas can be explored with the App.
Students work through free levels and develop ideas on bridge building.
Students start by planning their investigation – what combination of materials, designs and techniques would work the best?
Have students create a plan given what is available to them.
They can predict the weight their bridge can carry, draw and annotate designs.
Have them set a series of criteria or rules, such as maximum or minimum length, height, width and layers of sticks, so they have some control variables.
Gather and record their hypothesis and predictions.
Build the bridge! Have students record the building procedure using a camera, as they can use this to create a photostory or video later of their journey – publishing is an important aspect of inquiry and challenge based learning!
Testing/final measurement takes place between two tables, with a bucket suspended below the bridge.
Have it only a 10cm off the floor, as the splash can be big! Pour water into the bucket slowly.
If the bridge becomes ‘unsafe’ or broken, that’s its maximum! Have students photograph/video the process and record data, like weight – which parts broke first? Why? How can this be improved? What would happen if we spread the load out (multiple anchor points)?
Students use their predictions and compare them with the actual weight the bridge carried.
They can also compile whole class data and graph it using box plots, analyse statistics such as median, mean and mode, and create graphs of their work.
A critical step is publishing. Have students upload videos, create a website on Wordpress or Wix, and document their project. It would be a fantastic learning tool for future classes and could become quite the competition year after year!
It is a complex journey, especially when we give students a bucket of tools and little direction.
But, with a little guidance, STEM can be great fun, and a very worthwhile learning experience!