STEM Activity: Boom, Crash, Fun!
Explore the forces of motion and gravity by building structures and demolishing them in a variety of ways.
- Building blocks, small (plastic and/or wooden)
- Cups, paper or plastic
- Duct tape
- Plastic ball, lightweight
- Recyclables, all sizes
- Rubber bands
Demolition Bands Activity
- Make “demolition bands” by looping a thick rubber band through a washer, creating a slip knot, and tightening. Repeat with a second rubber band on the opposite side of the washer from the existing rubber band handle.
- Build a structure using small blocks or small plastic recyclables.
- Identify a portion of the structure to demolish. Sometimes demolition crews are asked to knock down a portion of a building, while preserving the rest of it. Your goal is to see what blocks you can target without sending the whole structure crashing down.
- Pull back on the washer, aiming for one block or part of the structure and then release the washer.
- What happened? Rebuild your structure and adjust your position. Try again using different building materials.
Wrecking Ball Activity
- Create a wrecking ball by tying a lightweight plastic ball onto a length of string.
- Attach the string to the middle of a yardstick. Lay the yardstick horizontally, using chairs or two desks spaced apart to prop the ends of the stick so that the ball can swing freely.
- Anchor the stick to the chairs or desks using duct tape.
- Gather several items, which may include boxes of different sizes, plastic containers and bottles.
- Build a structure and then send it flying by pulling back the “wrecking ball” and releasing it toward the structure.
- What happened? Rebuild the structure and change the angle of the wrecking ball to experiment!
What Are We Discovering?
Demolition is used to take a structure down quickly with the intent to use the space for another purpose. Demolition crews sometimes demolish only a targeted area of a building. Wrecking balls, cranes, excavators, bulldozers and explosives are common demolition tools. There are many aspects of STEM at play when it comes to demolition and deconstruction, which is a more precise and careful method of taking apart structures while preserving all the parts and pieces to later be reused or recycled.
National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, which made demolition quicker, easier, safer and cheaper. Nobel developed many improvements in explosives, and he held 355 patents in different countries in electrochemistry, optics, biology and physiology. Nobel instructed that the majority of his fortune go toward awarding annual prizes for advancements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. There are 31 NIHF Inductees who are also Nobel Prize recipients.
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