The paper bridge activity is a classic classroom activity that encourages problem solving and collaboration. The idea is to give students a piece of standard letter-size paper and pennies, and see how strong a bridge they can build with the paper. Some experiments involve just folding while others allow cutting, taping or other support mechanisms, The goal for all involves supporting as many pennies or other small weights as possible. You can make it a competition between groups.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Standard letter-size paper
Set two books down a little distance apart. You can work on the floor, a desk or whatever surface you have available.
Place a sheet of standard-size paper spanning the distance between the two books and put pennies on top of the paper, one at a time. On another piece of paper, with a pencil, record how many pennies the paper supports before it collapses.
Hold the paper with the short side across the top and the long side down the side. Use the ruler to measure an inch from the top of the paper and fold the paper toward you. Measure another inch and fold the paper away from you. Continue to alternate folds, one inch apart, so the paper makes an accordion-like structure.
Lay the accordion-folded paper across the span between the books and place pennies along the folds in different combinations. See how many pennies you can get the paper bridge to hold before it collapses, and record the number.
Experiment by folding the paper in other ways. Try different size accordion folds, or design an I-beam. Use your imagination. Observe structures around you. Discover the maximum number of pennies your paper bridge can hold.
Tips and warnings
- This article involves only folding the paper, but there are other methods. Experiment with other ideas to see if you can make a single sheet of paper support more pennies another way. Try cutting the paper with scissors and taping or weaving it together to make a bridge.
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