Building a tower out of straws and paper clips can be an challenging project and an effective way to teach the basics of architectural design. Students must consider weight distribution, basic physics and the engineering necessary to construct a structure. As students explore the construction possibilities, they will be learning valuable lessons and enjoying the process of creating a tower. This project can be tailored to be simple for younger students or more complex for older students.
Show students how to unfold the paper clips so that the inner bend is pulled out from the outer bend. This can be left straight or bent at an angle, depending upon your building needs.
Insert one end of a paper clip into one end of a straw. Add a paper clip to the other end of the straw. Repeat until you have several straws with paper clips to use as you begin building.
Connect a straw without paper clips to a straw with paper clips. Either leave the two connected straws in a straight line, or bend the connecting paper clip at an angle, depending upon your construction needs.
Experiment with connecting straws in various ways to construct a tower that is stable and tall. Paper clips can be added or removed from straws as you experiment with constructing your tower.
Discuss as the class the basic physics and engineering concepts learnt during this project. Explore the structural elements that determine the tower's strength and stability.
Students may experiment with towers having a wide or narrow base, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Encourage experimentation in building.