By GERRI MCDONALD
Special to Atmore News
Students in fourth and fifth grades at Perdido Elementary School tested their engineering and team building skills during the first week of school. The hands-on activities in both classes required students to work cooperatively to successfully complete the engineering task that was given to them.
Fourth graders in Mrs. Paige Coleman’s science class were given the task to move a tennis ball, balanced on a center ring, as a team, to a cup. They began with everyone in the group holding onto the yarn cables that were attached to the center ring and balancing the ball on that ring. They then moved, as a team, from their starting point (their desk) to the cup on the floor. Students quickly realized that if they didn’t raise or lower their cables at the same time and the same amount, the ball would fall. In addition, students found that they had to keep an equal amount of tension on the cables.
Mrs. Jill Jones’ fifth graders were given the task to build a tower using nothing but copy paper and tape. Students worked in teams of three to five to design their towers. They quickly discovered that the strength of their building material (copy paper) depended on how it was used. Pleating or rolling paper can increase its stiffness. By crumpling, folding, and otherwise reshaping the flimsy flat sheets and by forming a wide base, the students were able to make their towers in this activity stand up and reach unexpected heights.
Several of the engineering concepts that the students learned were that there were many forces are at work on towers. Gravity and the dead load of a tower pushed down, while the ground (their tables) pushed back up, and small air movements pushed from the side. A foundation distributes the load into the surrounding ground material and can help balance the sideways wind force. The key to the success, they learned was the size of their foundation.