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Straw Towers Design Challenge Nicole Cozart Program Coordinator STARBASE One Selfridge ANGB, MI & Alison Chanley Pre-Service Teacher Oakland University Rochester, MI. Download additional materials, handouts and more at:

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Straw Towers Design ChallengeNicole CozartProgram Coordinator STARBASE OneSelfridge ANGB, & Alison Chanley Pre-Service TeacherOakland UniversityRochester, MI

Download additional materials,

handouts and more at:

design challenge
Design Challenge

You have been brought together as a team of civil engineers to construct the tallest, most stable tower. Your team’s design will be competing for a contract awarded by the city. Before you can be awarded the contract, however, you must develop a prototype of the tower you intend to build.

your task
Your Task

Eiffel Tower

Paris, France

To work together as a team to create the tallest, most stable tower using:

  • 50 straws per team
  • 1 meter of tape
  • 1 pair of scissors
time intervals
Time Intervals
  • 5-7 minutes for research and development; brainstorming, talking, communicating, and sketching initial design
  • Three 10 minute intervals for construction
  • 2 minute discussion periods at the end of each building phase
rules for tower construction
Rules For Tower Construction
  • No taping structure to the floor or table.
  • Tower must be free standing upon completion.
    • You can’t hold it up!
  • Each structure will be measured from the base to the highest free standing point.
  • Each group can ask 2 questions during the building process pertaining to the actual design, process, or rules.
alternative materials
Alternative Materials
  • Students may “purchase” alternative or additional building materials during the planning phase. Such as:
    • Design ideas (example blueprints or design ideas printed out for viewing)
    • Flexible straws
    • Bases (paper, poster-board, cardboard)
teaching strategies
Teaching Strategies
  • Lots of open space
    • Push tables or desks out of the way
    • Use the gym, media center or hallway
  • Kitchen or egg timer for time increments
  • Create penalties for talking during build phase
    • Could include loss of resources, points, or height deductions
  • Music
alternate teaching strategies
Alternate Teaching Strategies
  • Job Descriptions
    • Describes a specific job for each team member in order to utilize time more efficiently and to prevent arguments.


  • Guide the team in making decisions.
  • Oversee the building of the tower.

Engineer 1

  • Draw Straw Tower Blueprints.
  • Build the tower according to the blueprints.

Engineer 2

  • Draw Straw Tower Blueprints.
  • Build the tower according to the blueprints

Financial Manager

  • Inventory materials.
  • Distribute and monitor use of materials.
predictable complications
Predictable Complications
  • Grouping
  • Misuse of the resources i.e., scissors
  • Students not following design plans
  • Parents/Teacher’s Assistant
  • Espionage/Sabotage; can groups copy or steal ideas from one another?
  • Giving up
engineering design process
Engineering Design Process
  • Problem
    • Describe the problem.
  • Research
    • Discuss what you know about structures and towers.
  • Brainstorm
    • Discuss ways to create the tallest tower and sketch a diagram.
  • Choose the best solution.
  • Build it!
    • Get your supplies and start working.
  • Test it!
    • Is it freestanding? Is it the tallest?
  • Communicate
    • What did you learn?
  • Redesign
    • What changes would you make?
  • This activity can be used to teach a variety of curriculum, group dynamics, communication skills, as well as the design and engineering process.
  • This is a fun hands-on activity that students of all ages find fascinating and engaging .
  • All of the materials are inexpensive and/or readily available to teachers on any budget! Hence, Science on a Shoestring!