We’ve had lots of fun testing out our 15min STEM activity ‘which shape column will hold the most weight?’ This activity couldn’t be more simple; all you need is paper, tape and some books. These are things that are easy to find in every classroom!
The first challenge was to fold and secure the paper in the various shapes. we recommend you get the children to do this for themselves. Although they will find it hard (particularly the triangle shape), it’s a good skill for them to learn and is a practical way to get in a brief discussion about fractions.
Once you’ve got your columns ready, encourage the children to make predictions about which column will hold the most books, recording their ideas as a tally chart. Predictions completed, we suggest you start the experiment with the square and triangle shapes first, building up to the circle shape last.
Here are our results. As you can see, the square and triangle shaped columns struggled to hold more than one heavy book, buckling as soon as a second book was placed on top. Meanwhile the circle shape was the clear winner, managing to hold an impressive seven books before eventually crumpling under the weight.
Of course, the children were then keen to know why the circle shape was so much stronger. We talked about how this shape doesn’t have edges so it is able to distribute the weight evenly. This then led to a discussion of how cylindrical shapes are used in structures by engineers. We even used ipads to travel way back in time, looking at the cylindrical columns used on ancient buildings such as The Parthenon in Greece!
Check out more 15min STEM activities here.