June 22, 2024

Paper Towers – Kids Science Project and STEM Challenge

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A paper tower Pin

This is a very simple engineering activity that uses trash to make a cool project. Grace did it once a few months ago at the Girls in STEM workshop at a local science center, and she loved it.

I\’m sure your kids will love it, too. Grab a big stack of scrap paper and get started. (We keep a box for scrap paper – papers where one side has been printed on, usually for contracts, misprints, calendars, and the like.)

Paper Tower Materials

  • A roll of masking tape
  • A stack of 8.5\”x11\” paper – We used plain white typing paper, but you could also use construction paper or any similarly sized papers.

Instructions

  1. Roll up one piece of paper from one corner, like this:
    rolling up a piece of scrap paperrolling up a piece of scrap paperPin
  2. When it\’s all rolled up, use a piece of masking tape to secure the end.
    3 paper tubes3 paper tubesPin
  3. Roll up 15 more pieces of paper in the same way.
  4. Use the stack of paper sticks and the roll of masking tape to make the tallest free-standing tower possible.
  5. Roll more paper sticks as necessary to make your tower taller.
  6. When your child is all done building, test the tower for strength by trying to blow it over. If it falls over, she should go back to the drawing board and try again.

The Science

This project looks at one of the oldest engineering challenges in the world – height versus stability. Everyone can make a tall tower, but a tall tower that will stand up to a strong wind is a whole different matter all together.

Your kids will use their science muscles to design a tower, implement their design, and then adjust as they build. Then, if their tower falls over and they try a second design, they are learning so much! They will make a new design using what they discovered the first time.

Also, this is a good follow-up activity to the Which shape is strongest? activity from last week. This one will allow them to build on the triangle and square building that they did then.

There are a million ways to build a paper tower using this method, but the best designs usually have a strong wide base, a low center of gravity, and an open design.

Extend the Experiment

If your kids think this is too easy, challenge them to build a tower using a single sheet of paper and the roll of masking tape. That is much harder!

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