Do the Tallest Paper Tower Fluor Challenge — 10 Steps to Success
All students in grades K-12 are encouraged to enter the 2021 Tallest Paper Tower Fluor Challenge! The Fluor Challenge is a great fit for Engineers Week and an engaging way to give students the chance to try engineering. The Fluor Challenge is designed to work for all grade levels and around the world. See the 10 steps below for a handy blueprint for doing the 2021 Fluor Challenge with your students.
10 Steps to Do the 2021 Fluor Engineering Challenge with Students12
Tip! Talking about the Engineering Design Process will help students understand how to approach designing, testing, and iterating to troubleshoot and improve their designs as they work on their towers3
Optional! Have students research "tall towers" to learn about some of the tallest towers in the world. Having students sketch or record the towers they discover through their research will help them observe different tower designs and different approaches used in building tall towers before they start designing their paper towers for the Fluor Challenge.4
Tip! Make sure all students are clear how materials will be counted when calculating the final score for their towers.5
Have students sketch their ideas for multiple tower designs and then choose the design they think will result in the tallest tower that can support the can of food. Why do they think the selected design will work well?6
Alone or in teams of up to 4, have students design, build, test, and iterate on their Tallest Paper Tower solutions. Remind students that it's okay for initial designs to not work well. Troubleshooting, making design changes, and building again (or iterating) are all important parts of the engineering design process. When a design doesn't work, encourage students to think about what happened and what changes they might make to address the problem. For towers that do stand and support the can, encourage students to see if there are still ways to improve the design or make the tower even taller.7
Optional! For classroom assignments and check-in points, use the Fluor Challenge worksheets (available with the lessons for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) or ask students to record testing notes and reflection throughout the challenge about what worked and what didn't work with their design and what changes they made with each iteration.
Note: If you use a tool like FlipGrid with your students, having them make videos of their tower testing can be a fun extension of the project!8
Review the testing protocol for the 2021 Fluor Challenge and set a deadline for students to complete their tower and testing. To enter the contest, students will need to calculate their final score and take a picture of the complete (full-length) tower with the unopened can of food on top. (A second photo of the team with the tower is optional.)
Tip! In case the tower collapses or breaks during final testing, we recommend having someone take the photo during testing, while the tower supporting the can is being timed.9
Visit the challenge site at Science Buddies to submit each team's entry by Mar 12, 2021 for a chance to win! Remember, all student entries will be reviewed for the final 2021 Fluor Challenge scoreboard. Students in listed geographic regions will also be entered in random drawings for prize money to be awarded to the student's school or organization. Students do not have to have a high score to enter or to win!
Note: Students can submit their own entries, but they will be asked to list a teacher or adult contact (by name and with an email address).10
Optional! Show off your students' Tallest Paper Tower solutions and celebrate engineering and hands-on STEM learning! If you share your students' towers, please tag #FluorChallenge and @ScienceBuddies!
The Fluor Challenge is a great way to celebrate Engineers Week with students. This year's challenge specifically uses readily-available materials to make it accessible to students who are building their towers in the classroom or completing the challenge at home.
If you are looking for additional hands-on engineering challenges, we recommend looking at these collections:
- 12 Engineering Design Challenges Perfect for Remote Learning
- 8 Free Science Activities with Toilet Paper Tubes
- 16 Projects to Jump-start Your Makerspace
- Fluor Challenges from previous years (see tabs for the 2019 Volleyball Machine, 2018 Ball Launcher, 2017 Water Flow, 2016 Marble Machine, and 2015 Balloon Car challenges)
The following books and reading selections may pair well with this year's Fluor Challenge, especially with younger students.
- Be a Maker by Katey Howes (Author), Elizabet Vuković (Illustrator)
- Boxitects by Kim Smith
- Cool Architecture: Filled with Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages by Simon Armstrong (Author)
- Dreaming Up: Celebration of Building by Christy Hale
- Gustave Eiffel's Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower (The Story Behind the Name) by Sharon Katz Cooper (Author), Janna Rose Bock (Illustrator)
- Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty (Author), David Roberts (Illustrator)
- Jack the Builder (MathStart 1) by Stuart J. Murphy (Author), Michael Rex (Illustrator)
- Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson (Author), James E. Ransome (Illustrator)
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
- The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor (Author), Kate Berube (Illustrator)
- The Wonderful Towers of Watts by Patricia Zelver
- Where Is the Eiffel Tower? by Dina Anastasio (Author), Who HQ (Author), Tim Foley (Illustrator)
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- 6 Steps to Success with the Fluor Engineering Challenge
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