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Reinforcing or Bracing Structures

Teacher Toolbox icon Teacher Toolbox - The Purpose of this Page

The goal of this page is to provide examples of everyday objects that rely on structures to be strong and stable. Read this page with students and make sure they understand the stability of structures and how reinforcement can cause a design to be strengthened, before moving on to round two where they will improve their tower design.

A Collection of Different Steel Girders
Examples of how steel structures use reinforcement for stability

Reinforcing Your Design

Steel structures like the ones pictured have several connections between the main structure. This allows the design to be strengthened and creates more stability. If the main structures were only connected in one area, then it will be at risk for failure if that one connection fails. This is why you will find structures like buildings, bridges, and homes have several braces to reinforce their structure.

Extend Your Learning icon Extend Your Learning - Applying Reinforcement

To try other activities with this concept, ask your students to build a structure as tall as they can only using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. Ask the students to write down their ideas – both success and failures – in their engineering notebook. Another option for this activity would be for the students to build a structure as tall as they can using playing cards. Again, have students write down their observations in their engineering notebook. Conclude this activity by engaging the students in a whole class discussion and asking questions such as, “Did your structure fall over at any point? If so, why?” “Do you have ideas to improve your design? Explain.”