Load It Up!

See how a marshmallow can hold up a bridge load. Teams take a closer look at the design of bridge piers. They determine the types of loads that might affect a bridge, and, using that information, they calculate the needed cross-sectional area of a pier. The groups then build model columns from clay, foam, or marshmallows and test their calculations. 

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CCSS: Designed
NGSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas
  • Because the columns will vary, even when built from the same substance, build several columns from the same material and repeat the test to find an average
Classroom Considerations
  • Class members should be able to calculate the area of a rectangle and understand compression and tension forces acting on bridges
  • Determine a way to balance the books on the columns prior to the load tests
  • The activity is the fifth out of 10 in the unit on bridges
  • The PowerPoint presentation sets the stage as a hook about why it is important to have the proper support for a bridge
  • The worksheet guides the class through the calculations
  • None
Common Core