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6th Grade STEM Challenge: Survive the Shake Table
Posted 03/12/2019 09:56AM

In science, sixth graders have has been focusing in on natural phenomena caused by tectonic plate movement. For the past few weeks, they have honed in on a study of earthquakes, aftershocks, and how humans are trying to prepare for an unexpected quake.

Students were tasked with using the engineering design process to build structures able to withstand earthquakes on the Barnesville earthquake shake table.

The engineering design process includes the following steps:

  • Identify a problem and ask how to solve it.

  • Imagine a solution.

  • Create a plan to fix it.

  • Create and test your design.

  • Improve the design, and start the process again.


Students had the option to use either hot glue and toothpicks or legos to build structures at least 25cm high that could withstand at least 10 seconds of shaking at the highest setting on the shake table. Aside from the height requirement, there was a competition to see which building could withstand the most weight.

The winning structure was made of toothpicks and hot glue and used a variety of triangle shaped walls to support the structure. This building held over 1200g without collapsing, while others that did not utilize this design quality could not handle the pressure.

Following the building competition, students reflected on their designs and brainstormed ways to improve their structures, completing this iteration of the engineering design process.



An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076

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