Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? Ferris Wheels!

Oh my! What have we been doing in the lab?
This was one of our favorite challenges last spring and in some summer school classes!
It's Ferris wheels!
Here's a great summer time STEM Challenge! Build a Ferris Wheel! It needs to be hexagonal and turn on a central axle! Will symmetry play a part in the final design?
This little challenge is part of a trio of challenges that are all about summer vacation theme park rides- Ferris Wheels, Roller Coasters, and Water Slides. These are perfect for summer or the month of August as kids head back to school!
You can see posts about the other challenges!
and 

In the meantime, this post is all about Ferris Wheels!

STEM Challenge: Build a Ferris Wheel! It needs to be hexagonal and turn on a central axle! Will symmetry play a part in the final design?
First, of all, do you know why Ferris wheel must be capitalized?
It's named after the inventor Mr. Ferris!
This happened in 1893 when the director of the Chicago World's Fair wanted a gigantic, unique, and amazing structure to rival the Eiffel Tower which had been the feature at the previous World's Fair in Paris. The director challenged a group of engineers to design something bigger and better and Mr. Ferris came up with the Ferris wheel. His was 250+ feet tall with 60 passenger cars. People paid fifty cents to ride the Ferris wheel which meant about a two revolution ride that took 20 minutes. Sadly, that original Ferris wheel was destroyed a few years later.

After we learned all this trivia about the first Ferris wheel my students were ready to build models.
Only they didn't have steel beams.
They had craft sticks and glue.

HELPFUL HINT: If you try this project you are going to need craft sticks! Don't be fooled by the dollar store variety- get the giant box- like this one:
They last forever, can be reused, and are much more economical than the dollar store packages!

STEM Challenge: Build a Ferris wheel! Kids had to work through making a hexagonal shape and then joining the two sides together. It was also really important that the two sides were symmetrical and joined properly.
We had to work through making a hexagonal shape and then joining the two sides together. It was also really important that the two sides were symmetrical and joined properly. Otherwise you ended up with a wonky wheel that would not turn. This happened a lot! But, one of the things I love about STEM is that kids make mistakes and then try something else. When their misshapen wheels were not turning they took the whole structure apart and were more diligent about laying those craft sticks in a good arrangement- but with each side matching.
Check the photo below for some wonkiness!

STEM Challenge: This task required using symmetry and matching the sides of the wheel. Groups that didn't line things  up correctly had wheels with sides that warped and this kept the wheel from turning! What a great learning experience!
Yep, I'm going to say that the above group didn't quite match up their wheel sides correctly.
Another big thing that kept happening is that  an axle had to go through the wheel. This meant the kids had to leave an opening! Some groups paid no attention to this minor detail and ended up with the center of their wheels being a stack of craft sticks, but no place to thread the axle. And, yes, they took that apart and started over. This was a fabulous challenge for persistence! In the photo below you can see a center area that worked perfectly. However, that wheel still has a mistake!
STEM Challenge: Build a hexagonal Freris wheel! Look closely at the photo. Can you spot the mistake? It's not a hexagon. That Ferris wheel has SEVEN sides!
Some of our mistakes were really interesting. Look closely at the photo above.
Can you spot the mistake?
It's not a hexagon. That Ferris wheel has SEVEN sides! But, y'all, look at it. It's pretty perfectly matched and it did work very well! How on earth did that team make a seven sided shape? Do you know how hard that is to do on purpose?

STEM Challenge: This was an exciting STEM challenge! Even though the Ferris wheels all looked very similar when finished it was still unique to each group. They all approached the task differently.
This was an exciting STEM challenge!
Even though the Ferris wheels all looked very similar when finished it was still unique to each group. They all approached the task differently. Some matched the wheel sides by laying them on top of each other. Some actually measured. Some just eyeballed it and hoped it worked.
This was definitely a trial and error challenge. Thank goodness hot glued craft sticks can easily be pulled apart!


So what have you been up to in Science class?
Coming Soon:
Pencil Boxes
Baked Potatoes

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