STEM PROJECT: SPAGHETTI TOWER

Introduction:

STEM studies contribute to the learning process of students by bringing together the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is ensured that our students look at a problem experienced in daily life from an interdisciplinary perspective, acquire relevant information and gain skills in the process of generating solutions.

In our distance education process, we have completed our STEM project by following our booklet named “Spaghetti Tower” with our 6th grade students in relation to our “force” topic.

Identifying the Problem:

With the video we watched as the first step in our STEM project process, we realized the effects of force in real life. With the questions we direct to our students, it is ensured that they think about the problems experienced in daily life, they approach the problems from a different perspective and we try to make them feel that they need to learn more about the subject.

Video:

Questions:
• Why do buildings collapse?

• How can skyscrapers survive?

• What could be the differences between the buildings that collapsed and survived as a result of natural disasters?

Search:

Our students discover the science behind the balance of buildings by analyzing the images in this part of our booklet and answering the questions. By drawing on visuals, they realize what “stretching” and “compression” forces mean and how the effects of these forces change in different bridge designs encountered in daily life.

“Nearpod”, one of the online education web tools, was used to convey how the “tension” and “compression” forces learned by our students affect the buildings and to reinforce the “factors affecting the standing of buildings”.

2 different interactive video links prepared in the Nearpod application were shared with our students. Thus, our students solved the questions they encountered with the information they obtained from the videos. This study enabled them to have deeper knowledge on the subject as well as to improve their instant listening skills.

Nearpod links:

https://share.nearpod.com/k2LpiqdXkab

https://share.nearpod.com/qUy1O6jfEfb

Our students get to know the famous towers both in their own countries and in the world before the design phase, where they will transfer the knowledge they have gained from the research part into practice.

The curiousity of the students about the famous towers they know in our country and in the world is aroused. Students are expected to research the towers selected by the teacher using shared links. With this study, while our students develop their research skills, they compare different tower designs with each other and establish interdisciplinary connections.

As a home study of this week, an article analysis study is given, which explains how skyscrapers are designed and built, which techniques are used to make their floors strong, and what materials they use. Our students also realize the science behind the skyscrapers, which they frequently encounter in the city center in their daily life.

Before starting the design phase of the spaghetti towers, we had an interview with our 6th grade parent Mr. Haluk Yorgancıoğlu, who is an architect, in order to enable our students to get to know the professions related to building construction more closely. Mr. Haluk Yorgancıoğlu’s son moderated our conversation.

In our conversation, our guest talked about the differences between civil engineering and architecture professions and shared different tower designs with us. He pointed out the important points for the survival of the construction. He emphasized the importance of the drawing phase for the design process to be successful. He shared dimensioned drawing examples. In addition, he enriched his conversation by mentioning the effects of the constructions and skyscrapers on environmental pollution and their suitability for a sustainable city life. We ended our talk by posing the questions our students prepared for our guest. It was a very enjoyable and instructive talk. We think that it helped our students to make daily life connections with the subject they have learned, also it served to guide them in their future career choices.

Design process:

Our students are expected to design the tallest tower using a maximum of 15 spaghetti pieces and the least amount of marshmallows, which they can easily find at home. The criteria expected in their designs are shared with the students before the design process.

Durability-1: The tower must be able to stand in an upright and unsupported balance without tilting or swinging.

Durability-2: Two 50 kurush coins should be able to stand firmly on the money slot to be built on the tower, without falling. The tower should be capable of balancing the weight of the money.

The money slot to be placed on the top of the tower: It should be made using spaghetti and marshmallows. The money slot should be durable and stable.

Height: You should design the tallest tower possible with the materials you have.

The following resource links are shared with students to emphasize the importance of facilitating the design process and to enable them to combine the information they have gained from different design examples using their own creativity.

In line with their strategies, technical drawing examples were shared with our students and applied as a whole class. It is a study involving engineering skills, and students realized the importance of making the drawing understandable by everyone and dimensioning the drawing in order to scale their work during the design process.

Using the “Sketch book” program, one of the online web tools, our students drew the towers they would design by combining the strategies they determined with the technical drawing skills they learned. With this study, our students gained a 3-dimensional perspective by benefiting from their engineering skills.

It’s time for the construction phase. Our students moved to the stage of designing their towers that meet all expectations by using their scaled drawings. This stage enabled our students to reflect their unique ideas, to reach their goals by producing different solutions to the problems they experienced, and to realize the importance of continuing the process without giving up.

Testing process of their designs:

Our students tested their designs to see if they met expectations. They put 2 pieces of 50 kurush in the money slots for the durability of the towers and they shared with the visuals whether it was in balance or not. In addition, for the tallest tower target, they measured their towers with the help of a ruler and added the data they obtained to the relevant table.

Each student shared the length of his/her own designed tower and added to the relevant data table. The average height of the towers of the class was calculated using mathematical data. Thus, our students were able to compare the average tower lengths of their classes with the length of their towers and analyze whether their designs could meet the length criterion.

Presentation and Evaluation Stage:

Each of our students presented the tower they designed and the construction process to their classmates by using the videos they took. Our students answered the following questions during their presentations.

Regarding the tower:

  • What is the name of the tower?
  • For what purpose was it built?
  • What are the things that make it durable?
  • What were the challenges that you faced? How did you deal with the challenges?
  • What did you learn / have fun with in this work?

Other students, while listening to their presenters, completed the “I am evaluating my friend” survey prepared in the “Microsoft Forms” application from online tools. With this study, the opportunity to learn from each other was created, and our students’ listening and giving feedback skills were also improved. After all the presentations were completed, our students were asked to answer the following questions, and they were given the opportunity to think about what they could do to evaluate and improve their designs.

It was reminded that development is a very important part of the process and that they can produce solutions to their problems and adapt their designs to the relevant criteria.

Evaluate and Improve questions:

  • What are the features you like and dislike most about your design?
  • If you were to redesign the tower, what would you change?
  • How close are the tower lengths you guessed at the drawing stage and the length of the tower you built? If not, why do you think this happened?
  • What factors have constrained / challenged / held you in your goal of designing the tallest tower?
  • Which of the 21st century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, teamwork, collaboration…) did this study help you to develop?
  • Please write below your opinions and suggestions you would like to convey to us regarding this study.

Our STEM study provided our students with the opportunity to learn ‘balanced force’ with its connection to daily life by arousing a sense of curiosity. It was ensured that they produce solutions to a problem experienced. It contributed to the development of critical thinking, creativity and communication skills, in particular engineering and design skills, to become productive individuals. Our students both had fun and learned.

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