Whittier Students Test Straw Structures’ Stability
Whittier High School students in teacher Shawn Cairer’s Earth Science class were unshaken Monday morning as the structures they created with plastic drinking straws, paper clips and twine were tested on an earthquake table.
The project calls for students to understand the impact of seismic waves caused earthquakes. They were given 30 straws, two feet of twine, a box of paper clips and some T clips to build a tower that would support added weight under the duress of primary, secondary and surface energy waves.
Cairer said the exercise gives the students an opportunity to create their own solutions to the challenge. As the towers were tested, the students noted areas of weakness so they could make improvements for a second round of testing. After adding weight to two levels of each tower and putting the structures through earthquake simulations, Cairer was impressed with his students’ performance.
“I’ve had a lot of students who were unable to even get (their towers) to stand,” he told the class. “You guys have done a good job.”
PIC1: Whittier High School student Dillon Southard, right, watches with anticipation as Earth Science teacher Shawn Cairer shakes the earthquake table to check the stability of Southard's tower Monday morning at the school. Southard's structure held up under the stress of added weight and seismic waves.
PIC2: Whittier High student Damien Miller checks the height of his tower before it is tested on the earthquake table. Each floor of the two-story structure had to be at least 14 centimeters tall.
PIC3: Earth Science teacher Shawn Cairer discusses possible structural improvements with Whittier students Lupio Chavez, left, and Corin Edwards.