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Tallest Tower

Having explored paper as a building material, Goldman gave his classes a well-known design task used with students of all ages -- to build the tallest free-standing tower possible using 2 sheets of paper and a strip of masking tape (30 cm).

Ed's goals included showing how paper can support compressive loads when folded, and how tall structures can be made with little paper (see chapters 10 and 11 of The Art of Construction for more info) and how easily they can be toppled, especially when a high center of gravity is coupled with a narrow base. Getting students to work quickly toward a shared goal was another aim.


MOVIE 1: Goldman asks his students to form groups with classmates with whom they would typically not work. Left to their own devices, students often work with the same team members the entire year, and also tend to stick to their first ideas like they were coated with conceptual crazy glue. Watch how Ed helps teams keep from getting stuck in these ways.

MOVIE 2: After groups finish their tower (some worked and others did not), Goldman gathers the teams together to review recently learned terms about structures. He explains

MOVIE 1:   2 minutes 58 seconds MOVIE 2:   4 minutes 25 seconds

why taller towers tend to tip over: their center of gravity, being far from the ground, need only to be slightly angled before they no longer lie within the boundary of their structural base. Listen to Ed's description of a case where students solved emergent problems as they were designing. Much of learning that students do when designing revolves around the emergent problems they face and then eventually solve.

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