Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Tower of Marsh

Posted on: February 22, 2010


Cards on the table… I outright stole this project.  My daughter was competing in the Physics Olympiad this weekend and one of the activities was to build a tower of marshmallows and toothpicks that can support a ping pong ball.  I know it’s not new, but I had never watched it happen before, I’m sold.

This was a great exercise in teamwork and engineering.  I was rather impressed at how the whole project came together in just 25 minutes.  I wasn’t sure when I would do this in my classes, we don’t ever really study mechanical engineering principles.  The same with the basswood bridges they built.  The concepts are great, I love the hands-on, I just wasn’t sure where this would fit in my curriculum.  I decided that I am going to use the Tower of Marsh when we do a short chapter on Center of Gravity.  We can do a small side study of bridge design and then do a team activity building the towers.  I was going to give the kids 40 minutes, the 25 minutes they had seemed to fly by and I have a 55 minute class to fill.  Maybe as an added prize, the winning team would get to have hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.

The attached instruction sheet has been modified for classroom use and includes how it will be scored.  This is in Word 2007 format, you may need a the free converter if you don’t have it yet.

Tower of Marsh

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1 Response to "Tower of Marsh"

This is a nice quick project. One thing you may want to look at is West Point Academy’s bridge design software, which is a free download [ http://bridgecontest.usma.edu/ ], the kids really like it, especially if it is a design challenge with a prize for the lowest price design meeting the specifications.
I teach middle school, so trying to keep it simple is good.

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