Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gumdrop Domes Engineering Challenge

As part of our studies of the Renaissance, we learn about Renaissance architecture and the famous Duomo of Florence designed by Fillipo Brunelleschi. We start by reading excerpts of the book Waiting for Filippo: The Life of Renaissance Architect Filippo Brunelleschi by Michael Bender, studying the pictures of the dome and wondering what makes it stand up.

Then we pose the question: Can you build a dome strong enough to hold a book using only toothpicks and gumdrops?

First, we plan a design:

Then, we build:

Then testing begins:

And this year's winner -- featuring reinforced trusses and base:

After discussing why we think some domes were stronger than others, we look at websites like this one to understand what it is that makes them strong and what builders needed to think about when constructing actual domes:

We also talk about geodesic domes and the strength of triangles due to even weight distribution.
In the end, we all win, with a better understanding of how strong domes are and what's inside them!

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An exciting week of learning culminated in a visit from the education department from the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University...