Testing to destruction

Here's a question for you. Do you know how much weight a piece of paper can hold? No? Neither did we. So we decided to find out. We have been having fun this week carrying out some science experiments as part of our IPC topic on Structures. We started off by trying to find out the maximum weight that a single piece of paper was capable of holding - we got it up to 1.7kg which we thought was quite impressive.

We needed to make sure that we carried out a fair test so we agreed that

  • everyone would have to use the same material - one single piece of A4 paper
  • the gap we were going to span was the same size - 15cms
  • we used accurate masses - from 10g to 1kg

We moved our classroom tables apart to make the gaps and then when we put a single counter on the piece of paper. The paper held the counter easily. So we then put a 10g mass on the piece of paper and it fell through the gap onto the floor. We then though that it would be a good idea if we fixed the piece of paper to each side of the gap so we sellotaped it down on each table. We then added the 10g mass again and this time the 'bridge' held firm and the mass did not fall.

We continued increasing the masses that were on the paper until the bridge collapsed and the masses fell on to the floor.

We then decided to see how we could make a single piece of paper stronger. We explored different ways to fold the paper and by doing this we found that we could get a single piece of paper to hold 1.7kg. This was the bridge that Lauren and Kane had built.

We are going to do some more work on finding out what it takes to make things collapse later in the week. In fact, at least one child was so enthused by what we had done that he went home and continued working on the problem at home - with some interesting results.                                  



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