Friday, September 30, 2016

Engineering Challenge # 15 - Rube Goldberg Machine

You have the skills!  Now that you have completed over 14 machines, it's time to put all your designs together!

Your challenge is to create a Rube Goldberg machine that actually works!

What is a Rube Goldberg machine you ask?

Have you ever played the boardgame mousetrap?  Where you have to fill the laundry basket, which drops as it gets heavier, pulling on the string attached to it, that turns a gear with a handle - the handle knocks off a marble that slides down a track and comes to rest on a button.  The weight of the marble slowly pushes the button down which sets off another chain of events that eventually lower a cup down onto a mouse on the other side of the game board?  Well, then you've just designed a rube goldberg machine.

Your objective:  Create a Rube Goldberg machine that has a specific purpose - (i.e. catch a mouse)
Think of it like an old tom and jerry cartoon...what are all the causes and effects you can build?

Here are some pictures and links to get your started!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Engineering Challenge # 7 - Balloon Poppers

This week's challenge is to make a  balloon poppers! 

Like catapaults or kickers they push objects along a path.

Use these to shoot pom poms, confetti, marshmallows....
Create a target and grab some friends to see who can hit the target the most times, the farthest distance....

Does changing the size of the balloon help?
What about the changing the diameter of the tube?
Try varying the length of the tube...

Here is a link to a great 'how to ' article!

Materials needed:
cardboard tubes (like toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls)
pom poms, marshmallows (other soft items to launch)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Engineering Challenge # 6 - Cardboard launcher

Your next challenge is to design a way to move a ball from one place to another without touching it with your hands.  Call it a launcher, a kicking machine, a catapault or whatever you want!

Here are some picture ideas to get your started...

Basic supplies for this project are:
cardboard, pencils, rubber bands, glue, &  tape

Here is a fairly easy catapault design tutorial.

These two are a little more involved...

Here is a good website for designing a kicking machine

Youtube video: make a cardboard launcher
This video goes with this website.....    (there is even a template out there for you!)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Engineering Challenge # 5 - paper rockets

This week's challenge is to make a paper rocket!

There are many, many designs on the internet for you to choose from.  Here are a few ideas to get your started!

Youtube video:

Here is a website with a great rocket design!  Also -

Also - from the website above, (and if you have access to compressed air!) you can make an altoids tin ignition button!  (This is for advanced students who already have soldering skills)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Engineering Challenge # 4 - Ramps

Your first challenge is to make a ramp out of cardboard.

Remember:  you may only use cardboard, glue, tape, scissors or cutters and string for these activities.  Any kind of cardboard that you can cut is fine.

Here are some internet pictures I found to give you an idea of what you can build.

As you can see, you can build a ramp in lots of different ways.  The basic idea is to have a flat surface that something can roll down (or up!) that sits at an angle.  You will need supports to hold the top part of the flat surface off the table or ground.  Can you see the triangles that makes?

Would the cheerios box in the 3rd picture make a good ramp?  Why or why not?

Make ramps with your siblings or friends - find something to roll down them (marbles, toy cars  - hey! use the ones you made from the lego challenge #1!)  Time how long it takes your item to reach the bottom of the ramp.

 How fast did it go?
Can you make it go faster?
How high can you make the top of the ramp before your object falls off?  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Engineering Quest # 2 - Paper table

Paper Table

Use tubes of paper or newspaper to make a table that is at least 8 inches tall and strong enough to hold a heavy book.

How can you make a piece of paper support a lot of weight?
                     (You can fold, roll, layer, or reinforce it).

How can you arrange paper tubes to form a strong, stable table?

How level and big does the table's top need to be to support a heavy book?

How can you support the table legs to keep them from tilting or twisting?

1 piece of cardboard or chipboard (about the size of a regular piece of paper)
Heavy book (textbook, phone book, etc)
masking tape
8 sheets of newspaper (or notebook paper)

To make a tube:  Start at one corner and roll diagonally toward the other corner.  (it should be about the diameter of a straw)  - Secure with a piece or two of tape.  (This challenges uses tubes, because it takes more force to crumple paper when its shaped like a tube).

Tables and chairs have supports to keep their legs from tilting and twisting.  Look at the furniture in your room - how would you describe the supports that you see? (Table legs often use rods for support.  The rods often form a triangle with one leg.)

Take two tubes of paper - form one into a triangle and the other into a square.  Tape them each closed and set them on the floor.  Push down on them and rock them from side to side.  The triangle will withstand more force and be more stable than the square.  However, orientation matters.  If you turn it so it rests on a point, the triangle will be weaker and less stable than before.

I'm having issues!  Help me!  

--The table legs tilt or twist - try supporting the legs by running tubes between them.

--A tube buckles when weight is applied - See if the tube is loosely rolled.  If so, re-roll it tighter and tape is securely closed.  Also - dents and creases weaken a tube.  Add a support or re-inforce the weak area or replace the damaged tube with a new one.

--The table wobbles.  Make sure that the table isn't lopsided, that there are adequate supports, and that the tubes are undamaged.  Also - a table becomes tippier as its height increases.  If a table is very tall and reinforcing the legs doesn't work, try reducing it's height.

The table collapses - check that the base of the table is truly study.  Engineers often put materials together in triangular arrangements to increase their strength and stability.  In general, the more triangles used to build the table, the stronger it will be.

Take it to the next level!

If a little is good, a lot is better!  Build a table that can hold two or more heavy books.

The sky's the limit!  Build a table that can hold a heavy book 16 inches off the ground!

Matching furniture!  Build a chair out of newspaper!
This attempt was a literal table.  My tubes were straight instead of rolled diagonally.  They weren't thin enough in diameter, so they buckled.  When I re-rerolled them, the whole thing turned in on itself - (called torsion) ...  I then added a cross bar to keep the legs straight, and more tape to secure it to the table top.  Ultimately, this design failed.  

This design was all 8 pieces of paper rolled into a tube.  It initially did not have the cardboard on top, and withstood 1 textbook for about 20 seconds.  With the cardboard it withstood 2 textbooks.  This is because the cardboard equalizes the pressure (spreading the load) from the books across the tube below it.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Engineering Quest # 1 - Spaghetti towers

Engineering Quest # 1 - Spaghetti towers

Each group or person gets:
  • 20 pieces of spaghetti (dried)
  • 1 marshmallow 
  • 1 yard of string (36 inches)
  • 1 yard of tape (36 inches)
 Build the tallest freestanding tower you can using only these materials

You do NOT have to use all the materials.  

How tall is your tower?  

    • What was the hardest part of this challenge? Easiest? What have you learned?
    • Why is testing so important? What would you do differently if you had the chance to rebuild the tower? 

JG's structure (We did a family challenge - all of us participated!)
SG's structure - she later said it was for fishing!
Can you beat this height?
MG's structure ultimately did not stand on it's own, but it was a great try!