Friday, April 20, 2012

The Super Tube Challenge

Again, another great idea adapted from Bill Ferriter; The Super Tube Challenge!

Goal:  Strengthen a toilet paper tube to hold as many social studies book as possible when it stands vertically.

  • As many different paper tubes as you can collect - we collected for almost 2 months.
  • Unlimited masking tape
  • 25 small popsicle sticks - purposely set a limit because I did not want popsicle stick structures.
  • One standard toilet paper tube per group
  • Only the original toilet paper tube may touch the table.
  • It may not be taped to the table.
  • You may not stack tubes next to each other on the table, anything that is taped onto the original toilet paper tube may not touch the table.
  • You may not steal supplies from each other.
  • They get exactly one hour from start to finish.
  • They may use books throughout the challenge to test strength of their design.
  • You may not interact with other groups during the challenge.
Process before the challenge:
  1. Either have students pick or assign teams of 3
  2. Show them a regular toilet paper tube and stack as many heavy books on one until it collapses.  In our case it was 3 social studies books.
  3. Tell them the challenge.
  4. Show them materials they will be building with.
  5. Have them plan for at least 10 minutes the first day.  I did this challenge over 3 different times, 2 10 minute chunks and then big 60 minute time.
  6. Explain the rules and discuss them.  Students will probably have questions.
  7. Give them time to manipulate the tube and start a plan with group - we spent 10 minutes doing this.
  8. Another day give them another 10 minutes to discuss whether they need to have modifications to their design or not.  They also need to assign one person to be the "scavenger."  This will be the only person who can gather materials.
  9. Have them decide on a  plan of attack for the challenge.
The Challenge:
  1.  Have 25 popsicle sticks and original paper tube ready for each team.
  2. Set a timer for 60 minutes (or whatever time you decide).
  3. Start timer - scavenger may get 10 tubes for their team - free for all.
  4. Throughout the challenge , like 15 min in I let the students scavenge one more time but usually just 2 tubes at a time.
  5. Film the challenge!
  6. At some point, inform them that you are taking away their masking tape.  This added challenge forces them to rethink their supplies as well as their original design, great on their feet thinking needed.
  7. I did shout out minutes left throughout challenge.
  8. At 60 minutes all building stops, hands off and the designs rest for a minute.  Then I place the books to see who has the strongest tube design.
Learning Goals:
Students will work on:
  • Teamwork
  • Perseverance
  • Creative problem solving
  • Engineering for structural strength
  • Time management
  • Controlling variables
  • Planning 
  • Using standard materials in a non-standard fashion.


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