All Resources

Gum-drop Structures

In this activity, students create delectable models of building structures with gumdrops and toothpicks, and examine their strength and stability.

Objectives

  • Investigate the strength of different shapes in building design.

Materials

  • Per Student:
    gumdrops
    toothpicks

Key Questions

  • 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

  1. 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.

  1. Test the structures using an earthquake simulator or simply by shaking the table beneath.

Extensions

  • 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.

Other Resources

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

Prepared BC | Earthquake and Tsunami Guide PDF

Government of British Columbia | Earthquake Preparedness and Response

Government of Canada | Natural Resources Canada |  Earthquakes Canada