• Design Squad: Suspension Bridge

    As is true with any engineered structure—whether it's a skyscraper, a tunnel, or a dome—different bridge designs manage the forces of tension and compression in different ways. In this video segment adapted from Design Squad—a PBS TV series featuring high school contestants tackling engineering challenges—a team of students competes in a bridge design and construction challenge that requires them to build a suspension bridge, which uses long sagging cables and towers to support the weight of a suspended deck. The rules of the challenge prohibit them from using power tools and force them to use natural resources. Thus, they use hand tools and tie ropes to trees and wooden posts.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Design Squad | Truss Bridge

    Have you ever wondered how different bridge designs manage the forces of tension and compression? In this video segment adapted from Design Squad, a team of students competes in a bridge design and construction challenge without the aid of power tools. The team constructs a king post bridge, a type of truss bridge that gets its strength from ultra-rigid triangles that will not easily bend or twist.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Designing Swimming Prosthetics for a Dancer

    In this video segment adapted from Design Squad, dancer and performance artist Lisa Bufano, a bilateral leg and finger amputee, challenges the teams to build specialized prostheses for an underwater performance. The teams keep aesthetics and function in mind as they use the engineering design process to create adaptive technologies.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Kid Inventor: Newspaper Crank

    In this video segment from ZOOM, a young inventor named Andrew demonstrates the machine he engineered to fold newspapers for his paper route. Turning a crank handle puts the first fold in a paper, and sliding a wooden shelf makes the second fold. Once the paper is folded this way, Andrew can easily slip a rubber band over it and go about his deliveries quickly and efficiently.

    Grades: K-8
  • ZOOM | Designing a Paper Bridge

    The activities presented in this video segment adapted from ZOOM demonstrate the properties of several bridge designs modeled using just a sheet of paper, some books, and lots of pennies.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Triangles: Testing the Strength of a Gumdrop Dome

    In this video segment adapted from ZOOM, cast members construct simple structures based on the light-but-strong design of the geodesic dome using gumdrops and toothpicks. These gumdrop domes help demonstrate that some shapes, like triangles, are inherently strong while others, like squares, are comparatively weak.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Triangles: Designing a Straw Bridge

    Building a strong and stable structure requires an understanding of the forces that will act on the structure under loads of various kinds. In this video segment, the ZOOM cast experiments with design features to see which will allow a bridge made of drinking straws to support the weight of 200 pennies.This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Straw House

    Brenett, Kim, Lucretia, and Omney belong to Montana's Crow Nation. They love their reservation, but there aren't enough houses. They wanted to find a cheap way to build durable homes. There's straw all over the place, so they did some experiments to see if straw bales could be used to build a house. In this video from DragonflyTV, they test straw, stucco, and cinder blocks to find the most economical and durable building material.

    Grades: 4-6
  • ZOOM | Columns: Experimenting with Paper Cups

    Columns, vertical structural elements that are strong in compression, are good at propping things up. In this video segment adapted from ZOOM, the cast uses paper cups to illustrate what makes columns strong and why they sometimes collapse. By filling the cups with sand, they also show that even hollow columns of a weak material like paper can be made surprisingly strong.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Investigating a Suspension Bridge

    Beam bridges are certainly simple to build, but compared to many other types of bridges, they're not very strong. By supporting the bridge deck of a typical beam bridge with a system of cables and transferring the deck's weight to heavy columns at either end, a beam bridge becomes a much stronger suspension bridge. In this video segment adapted from ZOOM, the ZOOM cast builds a suspension bridge using cardboard, rope, string, tape, and two chairs.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Robot Race

    Creating a robot capable of safely navigating its environment without human intervention has been a goal of engineers ever since they first conceived of robots nearly 50 years ago. Despite rapid advancements in technology, however, engineers did not succeed in the task of designing autonomous robots until recently. This video segment adapted from NOVA follows two teams as they push their engineering design skills to the limit to develop systems that allow cars to drive themselves in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.
    Grades: 3-12