Toothpick Structures

Have you ever made an edible tower? Join us in this activity and see how creative you can be!

You will need

  • Cocktail sticks
  • Jelly sweets such as jellybeans or ‘midget gems’

Method

  1. Carefully pierce a jelly sweet centrally with your cocktail stick
  2. Secure another jelly sweet in the other end of the cocktail stick
  3. Continue like this until you have made a 2D triangle or square.
  4. Then begin to create a 3D shape in the same way by adding more cocktail sticks and jelly sweets.

Investigation

  • Can you build:
    • a really tall tower
    • a stable building
    • a strong bridge
  • Which shapes are the best at making strong and secure buildings?

Science

You may have noticed that some shapes were stronger than others when you created  your structure. In particular triangles offered greater strength when a downward force was applied. When engineers build structures, they need to make sure that the structure can bear weight. Triangles are very good for this but why?

When a force is applied to one of the corners of a triangle it is distributed down each side squeezing them together. The third part of the triangle at the base then undergoes tension and the combined effect allows if to remain stable. If the same force is applied to a side of a square, it will eventually shift and change shape under the pressure.

See how many triangles you can identify when you are out and about, in buildings, towers and bridges!

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