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  • 8 - 15 years old
  • 45 - 145 minutes
  • Beginner
Preview image


Students are asked to follow an engineering design process to build the tallest tower possible that can withstand a simulated earthquake.

Key Concepts

Engineering Design Process, Engineering Notebook, Iterative Design, Conventional vs. Seismic Isolation Structures


  • Create a tall tower to withstand a simulated earthquake, iteratively.

  • Create an engineering notebook where their work can be organized.

  • Evaluate their designs to improve and enhance them.

  • Analyze how and why skyscrapers were designed.

  • Analyze how a building's design withstands earthquakes.

  • Apply building techniques and skills for strengthening a structure.

  • Understand the design features that need to be considered when designing a tower.

Materials needed

  • VEX IQ Super Kit

  • Materials for Engineering Notebooks (either prepared, or created with lined or graph paper and folders)

Facilitation Notes

  • Although the Robot Brain is included in the build of the Earthquake Platform, no programming is required. The Smart Motor will be controlled directly through the Device Menu.

  • Each team does not need to build its own Earthquake Platform. In the interest of time, you can build one for all teams to use for the challenge.

  • If each team is building an Earthquake Platform, you can test the platforms after Build and Explore to ensure that they work before getting to the Challenge. See the Set up the Earthquake Platform's instructions.

  • The Earthquake Platform sometimes sounds noisy, but that is normal. The parts are unlikely to break.

  • When the activity is introduced, a placeholder silhouette of a tower is presented in an image of the Earthquake Platform. That silhouette is not the suggested shape for designing a tower.

  • An Engineering Notebook can be as simple as lined paper within a folder or binder. The notebook shown is a more sophisticated example that is available through VEX.

  • The iterative process of designing, building, and testing the tower can include more rounds and/or more engineering time than what is outlined within the activity.

  • During the iterative design process prior to the challenge, teams should be testing the strength and stability of their towers. In the interest of time however, they can begin testing their towers with the Earthquake Platform earlier than the challenge.

  • The build of the Earthquake Platform should require approximately 30 minutes. The iterative engineering of towers, readings, and writing should require approximately 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes for completing the application readings. The challenge should require approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on whether towers are tested simultaneously. Lastly, the assessment could require as many as 30 minutes.

Educational Standards

Standards for Technological Literacy ((STL))

  •  1: F, G
  • 2: Q, R

  • 7: C

  • 8: E, F, G

  • 9: H

  • 11: K, L

  • 12: H

  • 20: F, G

Next Generation Science Standards ((NGSS))

  • MS-ETS1-2

  • MS-ETS1-4

Common Core State Standards ((CCSS))

  • RI.6-8.10

  • SL.6-8.1

  • WHST.6-8.2

  • WHST.6-8.10

  • RST.6-8.1

  • RST.6-8.3

  • RST.6-8.4

  • RST.6-8.10