"Test the strength of paper, folded in differently shaped columns, by piling books on top. This is very similar to how columns are used to support buildings and other structures."
Here's what you need:
- Use regular copy paper, not card stock for this challenge.
- Fold each paper into the three shapes (circle, triangle, square) and secure with tape.
- A stack of books (thin paperbacks work best).
- For older kids, have them hypothesize as to which shape they think will hold the most.
- Once the results are in discuss with them as to why they think it turned out that way.
- Younger kids can still participate, just think of it as a fun building project.
Here's what you do:
Slowly pile books on top of each shape.
For older kids: Hypothesize as to which shape they think will hold the most. Once the results are in discuss with them as to why they think it turned out that way.
For younger kids: They may not understand the science behind this project, but they can still enjoy building and watching things fall over.
How does it work?
"The cylinder can support the most books because its walls don't have any edges. The force of the books cannot become concentrated in a particular area. The load is distributed evenly. In other words, all parts of the cylinder are sharing the load of the books. All parts of the cylinder, therefore, contribute to its overall strength until, finally, it collapses.
"The square and triangle deform more easily. They shift the weight of the books to their edges and corners, which deforms their walls and leads to a quick collapse. They are unable to carry weight only at their edges.
"Have you noticed columns in buildings and other structures, like parking garages? What shape are the columns? Are they on the inside of the building/structure to serve their practical purpose of supporting beams or arches? Or are they exterior columns which lend support but also beauty to the structure?
"Early architects in several ancient civilizations used columns in architecture including the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans."