In this activity, students create delectable models of building structures with gumdrops and toothpicks, and examine their strength and stability.
Investigate the strength of different shapes in building design.
Alternative Materials: plasticine or play-dough can be used to anchor toothpicks.
- What shapes made by the toothpicks and gumdrops were the strongest? Squares, rectangles, triangles?
- Did the width of the base make a difference?
- When buildings collapsed, which portions stayed in one piece?
- Why did certain parts of buildings not collapse?
- How can you use strength and collapse information to build a better tower?
What To Do
- Individually or in groups, students build towers by sticking toothpicks into gumdrops, using gumdrops as connectors.
Create your own challenges or try some of these:
- The building must have 2 floors and be at least _____ cm tall.
- The building may not extend out past a given base.
- The building cannot use more than ____ gumdrops.
- The building cannot use more than ____ toothpicks.
You can do the challenges with or without time limits.
- Test the structures using an earthquake simulator or simply by shaking the table beneath.
- Try a structural strength test: What configuration of a Gum Drop Structure can support the most weight and is most stable? HINT: let the structures dry and harden overnight for this experiment.
- If using plasticine or fresh playdough as an alternative material: These materials are pliable, which can lead to extension activities about rigidity of joints and how they support certain structure uses, or not.
- If using play dough as an alternative material: When left overnight, playdough will harden. Structures can then be evaluated for their strength in weight ("load" ) they can bear. NOTE: Plasticine will STAY pliable if left.
Science World Resources | Structures faites de jujubes | French version of this resource
PBS Learning | Triangles: Testing the strength of a Gum Drop Dome
Government of British Columbia | Master of Disaster Youth Education
Government of British Columbia | Earthquake Preparedness and Response
Government of Canada | Natural Resources Canada | Earthquakes Canada