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Marshmallow House Challenge

HOW STRONG IS YOUR HOUSE?

In this activity, students are challenged to design and build a structure which is strong enough to support a book, using only the materials provided.

This challenge will give students a chance to try out different base shapes for a structure, as well as use some rather unique building materials.

Think about which shapes are strong, and how these shapes can be combined to make a strong structure.

Objectives

  • Compare the strength and stability of various structures.

Materials

  • Per Student or Group:
    toothpicks
    mini-marshmallows
    2 (or more) books

Key Questions

  • How strong is your structure?
  • How many books does your second structure support?
  • What can you change to make your structure stronger?

What To Do

  1. Build as big a free-standing structure as you canwith 20 toothpicks and 10 marshmallows
  2. Try to have your structure support one book. Then try two books.
  3. Try to build another structure with 30 toothpicks and 10 marshmallows (re-use the materials from your first structure).

Extensions

  • Look around at the shapes of bridges, furniture, houses and other buildings. Try making these shapes with marshmallows to determine how strong they are.
  • Try a structural strength test: What configuration of a marshmallow structure can support the most weight and is most stable? Does this change over time? HINT: let the structures dry and harden overnight for this experiment.

Other Resources

PBS Learning | Triangles: Testing the strength of a Gum Drop Dome

Government of British Columbia | Emergency Management BC | Earthquake Information