Home‎ > ‎Exploring Technology‎ > ‎

Paper Beam

Context: Roads and walkways have taken people from one place to another for centuries. Sometimes, they reach a location where they can not go. For example when they reach a river or a gorge. People have always come up with solutions to these problems through innovative thinking. 

Design Brief: To design and make a beam/bridge that will span a 36” gap and hold as much weight as possible.

Possible Solutions: Build a bridge, go around, go under, change the route, or don’t go at all.

Design Constraints: The following are some constraints or limitations for this project:
  1. You may work individually.
  2. The project will be evaluated during another period (i.e., you can do some “fine tuning” at home).
  3. The structure can not be anchored (i.e., taped) to the piers or supports
  4. You have 60 minutes to work on the project in class.

Detail Design: The following are the steps to designing and making your paper bridge:
  1. Ensure that the work area is clear of hazardous materials (i.e., oil, gas, rags, wood, plastic, etc.)
  2. Prepare the paper by using the knowledge you gleaned through the design-and-make tower project.
  3. Construct your bridge.
  4. Place the provided weights on the bridge and record the number required to result in failure of the beam section.
  5. Clean-up your work area and put your tools away.

Materials: sheet of paper, tape, rulers, scissors, and weights.

Commissioning: Were you successful in this project when you tried it out?

Evaluation: Did this project work as you expected it to?

Reflection: Did you enjoy this project? What were you most proud of? What would you do differently next time?


Here is a link to the West Point Bridge Designer software that we use at RCI. It is free to download and you can work on your bridge designs at home.