Science Fair Project on Arches and Domes: How Many Books Can Eggshells Hold?
Engineering: Why Arches and Domes are important
My son, Brendan, is fascinated with building things and wants to be an engineer. For one of his elementary science fair projects, I adapted some ideas I'd seen at a teaching conference twenty years earlier about challenging kids to build things out of index cards which could hold a brick.
Brendan loved this project and learned a lot about engineering principles and what makes a strong structure. This particular project had two parts to the experiment, and we also had him do a research component by looking on the web to learn about domes and arches. You could do a project with only one of these experiments or devise something similar to the sugar cube experiment using blocks.
Step-by-Step Photos of Science Fair ExperimentClick thumbnail to view full-size
Question: Why are Domes and Arches able to stay up without falling down?
Experiment One: How Many Books can eggshells hold?
- Books (same size books are best)
- small scissors
Procedure for Eggshell Experiment
- Create the half eggshell "buildings.": A parent may need to do this part, but you can certainly let a child try too. Carefully poke a hole in the egg with small sharp scissors. Next, cut around the egg as smoothly as you can. Do this until you get four eggshell halves which are the same height (you may need to shave down edges until they are the same). If an egg cracks during the process, you will need to use another egg. For the experiment to work, the eggs need to have smooth edges without cracks onto the surface.
- Make sure eggshells are the same height: Put four eggshell halves down on a firm table surface. Put one book on top to make sure they are all level.
- Make Hypothesis: Make a hypothesis of how many books you can stack on your eggshells before they break.
- Test your Hypothesis by putting books on your eggshell houses. Put them on carefully and slowly so that you don't use extra force. Take pictures as you go for your poster.
- Results: When your eggshells start cracking, your experiment is done. See if your results matched your hypothesis. Write down what you learned.
- Conclusion: Explain what you learned from this experiment. Compare your results with your hypothesis.
Great Video about Arches
Research Arches and Domes
To help you in writing your conclusion, you may want to do some research. Look at some of the resources on this Hub about building, arches and domes. Look up on the Internet some information about domes and arches, or find a book at the library with some information you can study. Here are some things to research:
- Why are arches and domes are so strong?
- How do builders use these shapes?
- Look for examples of famous domes and arches. Write down what you learn.
- Can you find any examples of domes or arches in your neighborhood or town?
- You might want to draw or take pictures of them for you Science Fair poster.
Video Explaining History of Domes
Experiment 2: Build and Arch with Sugar Cubes
Sugar Cube Arch Materials:
- Paper and pencil
- Sugar cubes, boxes, blocks or other square shapes
1. Make a Hypothesis: Do you think you can build an arch? How many cubes across? How many different arches can you design?
2. Building Your Arch: Using the sugar cubes, see if you can build a bridge or arch which stays together just by the force of gravity. Try different designs. If you have other square materials like small blocks, unit cubes, or cardboard boxes, you might want to try making arches with those materials as well. You can even try it with other shapes like toilet tube rolls.
- How high can you make your arch?
- How many sugar cubes across?
- Challenge other people in your family to try.
- If you tried materials other than sugar cubes, what was the result?
3. Gathering Information for Poster: Take pictures and draw your designs on paper for your poster.
4. Results: Was your hypothesis correct? Compare what you thought about making an arch with what you were actually able to do.
4. Conclusion: Evaluate why you got the results you did. What did you learn? Were you surprised? Was building an arch easier or harder than you thought? Do you think that using a different material would give different results?
Why Do Arches and Domes Science?
Arches and domes are a fundamental building concept. These experiments are a lot of fun and the results may surprise you. Moreover, these experiments show kids that engineering is creative and engaging. Whether or not your child has to do a science fair project for school, they may enjoy doing this experiment and it might spur them on to a career in science or engineering.
My son, Brendan, enjoyed this experiment so much that he has continued on his journey to be an engineer. He went on to do engineering projects with Lego Mindstorms in Junior High School that won second place at the Texas State Science Fair. In high school, he chose to take all of the physics and engineering courses offered at our school. Currently, he has been accepted to a major private university as an engineering major. While doing this project might not make your child decide to become an engineer, it can teach them that science and engineering can be fun and rewarding!
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