Authors: Daniele Brioschi, Marco Levera, Domenica Notaro, Ivana Lazzaro, Luigi Manara

We made this video to involve our students and colleagues in a new challenge, “how can science help us find a new balance in these troubled times?

The goal was to experiment with the concept of balance by producing imaginative structures. The rules were:

  • the structure had to be either laid onto or tied via a single supporting point. The supporting point could not be strengthened with glue or other materials to fix its position;
  • the structures had to always be free to spin and oscillate around the supporting point;
  • the completed structure had to maintain its own stable and balanced position on all its levels;
  • the students were allowed to use any material, and they were encouraged not to waste it.

We reached our 11-14 years old students using Google Classroom. The students, in their turn, sent in their work as both a photo and a short video (max. 15 seconds) to show their structures and demonstrate their balancing.

This activity allowed our students to analyze, plan and engineer a simple solution to a given problem via a hands-on approach. They worked by trials and errors using creativity, their previous knowledge of physics and the new knowledge coming from first-hand experience.

All the projects were eligible to compete in the following categories:

  • THE MOST COMPLEX: the structure with the highest number of centers of balance.
  • THE MOST ELABORATE: the structure with the highest number of elements connected to it.
  • THE BIGGEST: the largest, tallest and/or widest structure.
  • THE MOST ARTISTIC: the structure with the best aesthetics.
  • THE MOST ORIGINAL: the structure with the most amazing features.
  • THE MOST ECOLOGICAL: the structure with the highest number of recycled or recyclable materials/parts.
  • THE MOST IMAGINATIVE: the structure most defined by a specific theme.

Each participant could win one category only.

Students took part in the challenge making beautiful and various structures.

We published the works of the winners on our school website.

The activity was an opportunity to debate important physics principles and concepts like levers, centers of gravity, laws of dynamics.

For our school this activity was very important because:

  • it engaged all our students, included the less motivated ones;
  • the challenge and the video appealed to their curiosity and stimulated their imagination;
  • we started from a hands-on activity to talk about important scientific concepts;
  • the success of this activity stimulated us teachers to introduce other scientific challenges that we proposed our students in this period of quarantine. A pretty way to continue making science with them!

This activity was inspired by the ENGINEER project and took place between 01/04/2020 and 09/04/2020.