- 5 pieces of A4 paper
- Sticky tape
- A small toy that you would like to build a house for
- A small wooden block (or a big Lego block)
What to do
- Gather your materials on a flat surface.
- First, try making 4 walls out of 4 sheets of paper. Notice how they can’t stand up by themselves.
- To make the sheets of paper stand up by themselves, fold each one in half long ways. Then roll each one up, starting at a short edge to make a tube (about the size of a toilet roll). Sticky tape each tube together. Now you have 4 strong pieces of paper to hold up your roof!
- Stand the 4 tubes up so each one marks the corner of a rectangle (slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper).
- Put the last piece of paper on top of the tubes to make the roof.
- Place a block on top of the roof to be the chimney. Oh no! Did your roof collapse?
- To make the roof stronger, fold the piece of paper back and forth like a fan. This will make many little triangle shapes in the paper, which will make it stronger.
- Put the new folded roof onto the tubes and place the block on top of the roof. Does the roof stay up now?
- If your roof still collapses, try folding it again using a different width for the folds, to make more or fewer triangle grooves. Also try moving your wall cylinders closer to the middle of the paper.
- When your roof holds, your toy can live safely inside the strong paper house!
Questions to ask
Why did the paper walls fall down when they were flat pieces of paper? What changed when you rolled them into tubes?
Does it matter where you placed the wall cylinders? Try moving them around.
Why do you think the roof was stronger after it was folded?
Some shapes are stronger than others. Triangles, cylinders (or tubes), arches and domes are strong shapes to use when building. Other shapes like squares and rectangles aren’t as strong. When the block is placed on the flat paper roof, the roof collapses. This is because the weight of the block is focused in one spot and the paper bends easily (it’s flexible) when it is flat. When the paper is folded like a fan (called a concertina shape), the triangular shape of the folds makes the paper stronger. When the block is placed on top, the triangular folds help spread the weight of the block across the roof and down the walls, holding it up!
BJ: Hi, welcome to Questacon Science Time. My name’s BJ
DION: And I’m Dion.
BJ: And today we’re talking about building and engineering. Let’s go.
[Science Time logo]
Wake up sun and moon, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
Wake up skeleton, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
At home in the bathroom, when we’re swimming there is science,
Outside at the playground, in the sunshine, there is science.
[Science Time logo – Title, “Building and Engineering”]
[BJ, DION and all the children are sitting around the mat.]
BJ: Hi boys and girls. What are we talking about in Science Time today?
BJ: Building. Building and engineering. Now, builders, builders know their shapes really well. Because when you’re building there are a lot of strong shapes that builders and engineers use to make their buildings big and strong. So we’re going to go through some shapes today. Here we go.
CHILD: Like a house?
BJ: Like a house. Houses have big, strong shapes. So, what is this shape everybody?
[BJ is holding holds up a picture of a triangle.]
CHILDREN: A triangle.
BJ: A triangle, fantastic! What’s this shape?
[BJ up a picture of a circle.]
CHILDREN: A circle.
BJ: A circle. You know your shapes really well. What is this shape?
[BJ is holding up a picture of a square.]
CHILDREN: A square.
BJ: A square. Oh, you’re going to make great engineers. Excellent. What’s this shape?
[BJ is holding up a picture of a rectangle.]
CHILDREN: A rectangle.
BJ: A rectangle. Now, I want to talk a little bit about squares and triangles. Now, a triangle is a really strong shape that a lot of builders use to make their buildings strong. I’m going to show you something now. Here I’ve got, what shape’s this?
[BJ is holding up a four sided figure held together with screws.]
BJ: A square shape. How many sides does our square have?
BJ: Four? Let’s count to make sure.
BJ, DION & CHILDREN: One, two, three, four. Four sides, it’s a square.
CHILD: And I’m four.
BJ: Are you really?
CHILD: And I’m four.
CHILD: I’m four.
BJ: I bet lots of you are four. Now, if I push down hard on my square, what do you think might happen?
CHILD: It will turn into a diamond.
BJ: Turn into a diamond. Oh, I like the way you’re thinking. So do you think it will stay nice and strong like this?
CHILD: Nice and strong.
CHILD: Can you press it?
BJ: I’m going to press really hard. Are you ready to experiment?
CHILD: It might fall down.
BJ: I don’t know. Let’s do an experiment and find out. Are we ready? And push!
[BJ pushes down on the square and it squashes down.]
BJ: Oh, what happened?
CHILD: It turned into an L.
BJ: An L or a bit of a diamond, you were right, yeah. Is it still a square?
BJ: No, it’s not a very strong shape, is it? So we’ll try again…
[BJ pushes down on the square again and it squashes down again.]
BJ: Oh, no!
CHILD: That’s because it’s not real.
BJ: Well, yeah, it’s certainly not a real building. You want a real building to do that, would you? We’re going to change the shape now, because you remember that triangles are a strong shape. So Dion is going to unscrew these bits and he's going to turn it into a triangle.
[DION unscrews one of the screws and turns it into a triangle.]
BJ: How many sides does a triangle have?
CHILD: One, two, three.
CHILD: Three, three.
BJ: So we now need a shape that has three sides. Shall we count to make sure? Let's count, ready?
BJ, DION & CHILDREN: One, two, three.
BJ: It’s a triangle. So, now we’re going to push down –
CHILD: Because I counted them.
BJ: You counted them really well, yes you did. We’re going to press down and what’s going to happen when we press down on our triangle shape?
CHILD: It’s not going to happen.
BJ: You don’t think it’s going to squash down? Do you think it might get squashed like the last one? It might get squashed? Shall we experiment and find out? Are we ready? And, push!
[BJ pushes down on the triangle and it doesn’t squash down.]
BJ: Oh, what happened? Did it squash down?
BJ: No, it's a really strong shape! 'Cause triangles are a lot stronger than squares. So, a lot of buildings have triangles in them.
CHILD: No, you have to push it there.
[The CHILD points to the side of the triangle not the corner.]
BJ: Oh, I'll push here then?
[BJ pushes down on the triangle again from the side and it still doesn’t squash down.]
BJ: Good idea, but no, it's still strong enough to hold it. So, triangles are good strong shapes.
CHILD: What about that big rectangle?
BJ: Oh, the rectangle is pretty strong in that building isn't it? But a lot of buildings have triangle shapes; we'll have a look at those in a moment. But there are two more shapes I want to show you before we look at some pictures of buildings. What shape is this one?
[BJ is holding up a picture of an arch shape.]
CHILD: A rainbow.
BJ: It's the same shape at a rainbow.
CHILD: A semi-circle.
BJ: A semi-circle like a half circle. Another word for it - What did you say?
CHILD: An arch.
BJ: An arch. In building we call it an arch shape. It's a half circle, isn't it? A semi-circle. And it's an arch. And arches are actually quite strong, as well.
CHILD: I know a person called Archy.
BJ: Do you really? That’s a nice name. And there is one other shape I want to show you that a lot of buildings use.
[BJ is holding up a picture of a cylinder shape.]
BJ: This one is a circle on top and a long bit. It's actually this shape.
[BJ is holding up a 3D cylinder made out of paper (about the size of a toilet roll)]
BJ: It's got a circle on the top and the bottom and it stands up like that. Does anybody know what it's called?
CHILD: A rectangle.
BJ: It's a little bit the same shape as a rectangle. But round on the top...
CHILD: It's an eye.
BJ: Oh, it looks a little bit like and eye, doesn't it?
[BJ is holding up cylinder to her eye like a telescope.]
CHILD: No, it's an “I”.
BJ: Oh, like the letter I. It does a little bit. Do you know, we call this a cylinder? Can you say that word with me?
BJ: In building you get things like this and they hold up stuff. And we call that a column. Can you say that word with me?
BJ: Columns are really strong and they are really good at holding things up. Yes, they are very good at holding things up. So, let's have a look now at a picture of a house. Here we go, here's our house. Hands up if you live in a house? Do you live in a house?
CHILD: I live in a house.
BJ: I live in a house too. Well done, hands down. You might live in a house or you might live in an apartment.
CHILD: Some houses are made out of sticks. You can make houses out of all different things, can't you? I'll ask you about that again in a moment.
[BJ holds up a picture of a house.]
BJ: So, what shapes do we have in our house? What shapes are the windows?
BJ: Squares. What shape is the door?
BJ: Yes, rectangle. What shape is the roof?
BJ: It's a triangle shape. Well done. Now we've got other pictures of buildings here with lots of really good shapes.
[BJ holds up a picture of The Great Pyramid in Egypt.]
BJ: So, what is this building?
CHILD: A pyramid.
BJ: A pyramid, yeah. And what shape is our pyramid?
CHILD: A triangle.
BJ: It's a triangle on the sides, isn't it? 'Cause triangles are very strong shapes so it stands up really well. Now, next we've got…
[BJ holds up a picture of The Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia.]
BJ: Oh, what's this?
CHILD: A bridge.
BJ: It's a bridge. Does anybody know what bridge this is?
CHILD: The harbour bridge.
BJ: It's the Sydney Harbour Bridge here in Australia, isn't it? The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
CHILD: And it's a semi-circle.
BJ: It is.
CHILD: Trains go on it.
CHILD: My friend lives near the Harbour Bridge.
BJ: Really, that's next to her house. And you're right, trains go over it too.
DION: Hands up who's see the Sydney Harbour Bridge before? Has anyone see the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
CHILD: I've seen it in that picture.
BJ: Excellent. Hands down. Now, have a look at the shapes. First, we've got our arch shape. Our semi-circle arch shape. Nice and strong. But have a look here. Do you see here?
CHILD: That's a zigzag.
BJ: It's a zigzag. And the zigzag is lots of triangles put together. And those triangles make the bridge really strong. 'Cause it's got to be strong, doesn't it?
[BJ holds up a picture of The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.]
BJ: Now, this is a wonderful building, this one. This one has a - Does anyone knows what this building is called?
CHILD: The Eiffel Tower.
BJ: Well done. It's the Eiffel Tower.
CHILD: We've been up there.
BJ: Have you visited here? Wow, how exciting. This is in another country. In France. In a city called Paris. And here we've got an arch down the bottom to make it nice and strong.
CHILD: A semi-circle.
BJ: A semi-circle. Well done. And we've got a big triangle here. And also, if you look closely there are lots of little triangle, holding it, making it really strong.
CHILD: And there's a big one there.
BJ: And at the top there as well.
CHILD: And there's lots of rectangles. There's lots of shapes in that one. Now, here is another building. Does anyone know where this building might be?
CHILD: I've seen a picture of this.
BJ: You've seen a picture of this one before, have you? Wiggle just to the side, sweetheart.
[BJ holds up a picture of The Parthenon in Athens, Greece.]
BJ: This is the Parthenon. And it has lots of columns. Do you see all these columns here? They're holding up the roof. 'Cause the columns are really strong for holding things up. Now, there's another building with columns. Right next door.
[BJ holds up a picture of the National Library in Canberra, Australia.]
BJ: You might have seen this one before. This is the National Library. So, when you're going out into the car park later you might want to have a little bit of a look. And you'll see all these columns holding up the roof. What did you want to say?
CHILD: These are like columns.
[CHILD is holding the 3D triangle.]
BJ: They do look a little like columns.
CHILD: Me, Dad and Aunty Linda, we went there.
BJ: Fantastic. If you live in Canberra you can go and see the National Library. Sitting on your bottom. Because now, we're going to use all this knowledge we know. We're going to build our own house. So, I'm going to move these out of the way.
CHILD: I'm just going to scratch my foot.
BJ: Oh, OK. So, here we go. Where's our... Where going to use this as our floor.
[BJ puts a piece of hard plastic on the carpet to be the floor of the house.]
BJ: So, we have a floor. And we're actually going to build a house for Mr. Grasshopper. 'Cause he needs a house.
[DION picks up a toy grasshopper.]
DION: He does.
BJ: There we go, Mr. Grasshopper’s house. We have a floor.
[Close up of the toy grasshopper on the plastic floor.]
BJ: What else do we need?
BJ: A roof. So if we've got a roof on top. There we go.
[BJ holds up a piece of paper for the roof over the floor and drops it.]
BJ: Oops. We need some thing to hold up...
CHILD: We need columns.
BJ: Some columns maybe, to hold up our roof.
BJ: Walls maybe. Well, lets try some walls first. Now, you can build houses using all sorts of different things. You can use sticks to build houses. What else can you use to build a house?
BJ: Bricks, yes.
CHILD: Our house is made of bricks.
BJ: Yours is made of bricks.
CHILD: And mine too.
BJ: And your house might be made of bricks as well.
BJ: Sometimes metal as well. Do you know, we're going to use paper to build our house today? So, here we go. Some walls.
[BJ holds two pieces of paper on each side of the plastic floor for the roof. They don’t stand up by themselves and they fall down.]
BJ: Oh! Here we go, we'll try again. And walls! Oh!
[BJ repeats the actions and the paper walls fall down again.]
CHILD: You need to use columns.
BJ: I think you've got a really good idea. Let’s try using columns instead. So, I'm going to our paper and we're going to fold it in half. You can do this at home. And then I'm going to roll it up into a round circle, like this and make a column.
[BJ folds a piece of paper in half and rolls it up into a cylinder about the size of a toilet roll.]
BJ: So, rolly, rolly, rolly. And here is our column. Now, you put sticky tape on that to hold it, but Dion and I made some earlier. So can you get our columns?
[DION collects the pre-made columns from behind BJ and gives them to BJ.]
BJ: There are our columns.
[BJ puts them on the plastic floor one at a time.]
BJ: One, two, three, four columns. So we've got four strong columns now to hold up our roof. So we'll put the roof on top.
[BJ places a piece of paper onto of the columns as the roof. The columns hold up the paper roof well.]
BJ: Oh, fantastic! Now, this house is going to have a chimney.
[BJ holds up a small block that is going to be the chimney for the house.]
BJ: Does your house have a chimney?
CHILD: Yes, mine does.
BJ: Oh, yours does?
CHILD: The roof isn't strong enough to hold the block up.
BJ: You don't think it's strong enough to hold the block?
CHILD: Can we try it?
BJ: Yes, let's try it first. Let's experiment.
BJ: So, put it on top and let’s see.
[BJ puts the block onto the paper roof that’s sitting on the columns but the block is too heavy for the paper to hold and the whole house collapse.]
BJ: Yeah! You're right. It wasn't strong enough! So, you know, we can make our paper roof stronger. Do you remember, what is a really strong shape?
[BJ holds up the 3D triangle shape from earlier.]
BJ: Yes, triangles. And I'm going to make my paper into lots of triangles. Just like the zigzag shape that we saw on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So can you show us a picture of that again Dion?
[BJ starts to fold up the piece of paper from the roof into small concertina folds]
CHILD: It's like a fan.
BJ: I'm folding it just like a fan.
[DION holds up the picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.]
DION: So can everyone see the zigzag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge? The zigzags all over there. BJ's going to be making some zigzags with paper now. To try to make the roof a little stronger.
BJ: You're right. I'm folding it just like you would a fan. So lots of zigzag. Turn it over.
[BJ continues to fold the roof like a fan until it is completely folded, then she opens it out and holds it up so that everyone can see all the little triangle shapes folded into the paper.]
BJ: Now, can you see it looks just like a zigzag? Do you see, lots of little triangle shapes there? They're quite small.
CHILD: They look like grass-hopper legs.
BJ: They do a little big. They're quite small, aren't they? So, here we go. Let's put our columns up again.
[BJ is trying to stand up the four columns on the plastic floor, but they keep falling over.]
BJ: Oh, dear! Oh, dear. They're not standing up very well, are they?
[BJ gets them to stand up on the floor without falling down.]
BJ: There we go. We'll make them nice and close, because our roof isn't very big now, is it? There we go. We'll put our roof on top.
[BJ puts the folded paper roof on top of the columns.]
BJ: Have you got our chimney?
DION: I do.
[DION holds up a small block.]
BJ: What do you think is going to happen this time?
CHILD: I don't know.
CHILD: It's going to fall.
CHILD: It won't fall down.
BJ: You think it won't fall down. You think it might fall down.
CHILD: I don't know.
BJ: Well you see - I think it might fall down.
CHILD: Yes, me too. But, let's experiment and find out, shall we? Let's see. Ready? O.K.
CHILD: It won't.
[DION places the block carefully onto of the paper folded roof. It wobbles a little bit. He then places the chimney block over one of the columns and it then sits on top of the roof well.]
BJ: Whoa - Oh. Oh! Well done! Do you see, not only is the roof stronger, But Dion also put the chimney near one of our columns, to make it even stronger. Well done. So, there you go grasshopper. There's your house. Fantastic.
[BJ put the toy grasshopper into the paper house.]
BJ: So, we've got lots of things to play with here at Science Time today. Find your grown-up and go and have a play. Ready, set, go!
We are going to learn about the world we live in, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
We are going to play, its fun experimenting, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
At home in the kitchen, when we’re cooking, there is science.
Outside in the garden, in the night sky, there is science.
Wake up sun and moon, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
Wake up skeleton, it’s Science Time, it’s Science Time.
[Children (with their caregivers) are exploring, observing and playing with all the toys and experiments focused on “Building and Engineering” in the Science Time room.]
[A close up of DION talking directly to the boys and girls at home.]
DION: So, we're building lots of things here in Science Time. Let's have a look at something we've built here at Questacon.
[DION is now standing near an exhibit in Questacon’s Awesome Earth Gallery.]
DION: Hi boys and girls. Here we are today at Questacon's Awesome Earth Gallery. Now, we've got lots of buildings in here. You can see we have a long, big tower here. And some smaller ones. And in the back we've got a bridge as well. Now, remember those strong shapes that BJ was talking about before? These buildings have got columns. We've got big columns on the tower. And this bridge has got a really big arch. Now, this arch is a little bit different to what we saw before because it's up side down. But it's still very, very strong. So, when there's an earthquake or something like that, it can survive it really easily. Now, looking at this building here... Does it look very good? It doesn't look like it's build very well, does it? So we're going to see it this one survives the earthquake and we'll see if these ones survive the earthquake as well. So ready? We'll test it. Ready. Set. Go! Earthquake! Oh, no! Our building that wasn't build very well fell over unfortunately. But you can see that all of these buildings stayed up because of their strong shapes. They have columns and arches and they stay up nice and tall. What we're going to do is have a look at the Earthquake House now. We're going to see what happens to a house in an earthquake. So here we are at Earthquake House, here at Questacon. I know someone who really likes the Earthquake House. BJ!
BJ: Hi Dion. Hi boys and girls. I love the Earthquake House. This is going to be great!
DION: So what happens in an Earthquake is these things called Tectonic Plates in the ground, they shake and move. And that's when sometimes an earthquake happens. We're going to see what happens to a house when an earthquake happens here is Australia. Are you ready BJ?
BJ: I’m ready. I hope the house is strong enough Dion.
DION: It doesn't look very well build. We'll see how it goes. Ok.
BJ: Let's go! Oh, hold on!
[The Earthquake House begins to shake. DION and BJ hold onto the bench.]
DION: Can you see everything shaking in the house? There's the fridge.
BJ: I think the lights are going down too.
[The Earthquake House stops shaking.]
BJ: Do you think it's stopped? I think it might have stopped. Excellent. The house is O.K.
[The Earthquake House begins to shake again. DION and BJ hold on again.]
DION: Oh! It's shaking again. Holding on. This is getting bigger.
BJ: It's shaking!
DION: And look at the blinds, they're shaking too.
[The Earthquake House stops shaking.]
BJ: Oh, I hope the house is O.K.
DION: Me too.
[A cracking sound is heard.]
BJ: Oh no. Can you hear that?
[The wall of the Earthquake House gets a large crack in it.]
DION: Oh, look what's happened to the house!
BJ: I don't think this house was strong enough for an earthquake.
DION: I don't think so either. So this house is pretty beat up. Now, that was a pretty big earthquake that one here. We don't often get those here in Australia.
BJ: No. And luckily they make houses a lot stronger than this one in real life.
DION: They do. So how about we go back to Science Time and see what everyone's been up to.
BJ: Let's go.
[The film cuts to BJ and DION back in the Science Time room. Everyone is sitting around the mat.]
BJ: Now before we go, I want to talk about one of our shapes again. This was our special shape that we used for building.
CHILD: A semi circle.
BJ: A semi circle. What's another name for this shape?
CHILD: An oval.
BJ: Oh, good guess.
CHILD: A "C".
BJ: Arch. An arch shape. Can you say that with me?
BJ and CHILDREN: Arch.
BJ: An arch. Now, have a look how it's a little bit like a half circle, isn't it? Do you notice that?
[DION passes BJ a wooden block with a round hole cut out of the middle and a second block that is half of the first, with a half circle cut.]
BJ: So, here we've got a full circle and an arch is a half circle. A half one of those. That is an arch. Now, lots of buildings use arch shapes. So, here are just a few to show you.
[DION holds up a picture of the Colosseum in Athens, Greece.]
BJ: There we go. Thank you Dion.
CHILD: Even some windows are arch shape.
BJ: Yes! There are windows in this one actually.
CHILD: Like in Blinky Bill.
[BJ points at the arch shaped window on the Colosseum.]
BJ: Oh really? And this building here has arch shaped windows. Do you see that? Now, this one is over seas, a long way away. But there is another one a bit closer to home.
[DION passes BJ a picture of the Australian War Memorial.]
BJ: This one here is the War Memorial. And you see this has lots of arch shapes.
CHILD: I've been there and it's a bit scary.
BJ: Is it? There are lots and lots of arch shapes.
[Indistinguishable chatter from a few children.]
BJ: And I've got another arch shape to show you. Do we remember?
[DION passes BJ a picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.]
CHILD: The Harbour Bridge.
BJ: What was this bridge called again?
CHILD: The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
BJ: The Sydney Harbour Bridge. And listening... It's a big arch shape.
[BJ holds up a picture of a small arch bridge.]
BJ: And there is another little arch shape bridge here. Look at this little arch shape. Do you see the arch? Now, in bridges, arch shapes are really strong. And behind me – oops - I just knocked it over, didn't I? Here we go - behind me we're going to build an arch shaped bridge.
[BJ and DION put blocks onto the mat to build an arch shape with.]
BJ: So, here we go. So, we're going to build it up.
[BJ and DION build an arch using the blocks leaning on to an arch shape support.]
CHILD: I've done that.
BJ: I'm just going to wiggle it a little bit more in front. And you see, we're not using cement or bricks or anything like that to build our bridge. We're just putting them together and at the moment they're leaning on this bit here, aren't they?
[BJ points to the arch shaped support that the blocks are leaning on. BJ places the top block onto the arch she’s build.]
BJ: There we go. This is called the corner stone and we put that right there.
DION: Or the key stone.
BJ: Sorry. The key stone is another good name for that. And this bit at the very top is really important in an arch bridge And it fits in right there, just like a key. And now, I'm going to ask you to move your foot just a bit. I'm going to lift up this bridge and put it in front.
[BJ lifts the blocks of the arch shaped support and they stand up in an arch shape without the support to hold them up.]
BJ: Oh, look. It's standing up all by itself. We didn't use cement. And we didn't use glue. The arch shape there is all pushing together and pushing against this key stone. And it's holding its self up.
CHILD: Because the key stone is made of magnets!
BJ: Oh, that's a good guess. Magnets would hold things up like this, wouldn't they? That is a very good guess. They all push against the key stone and because an arch is a really strong shape it stays up by itself.
CHILD: You're going to knock it down.
BJ: What? Do you think I'm going to knock it down? You got to say ready, set, go though.
CHILD: Flick it!
BJ: I'll flick it like this? Ready, set, go!
BJ: Oh! Well done. So and arch shape is really good for building bridges.
DION: So, sitting on your bottoms everyone. We've got some things for you guys to take home.
BJ: There we go. So we've got our parent information sheets. You can see this on line. You can down load it. Lots of fun activities you can do at home. And we've got our colouring in picture today. We've got a column. Lots of triangles in this picture. Lots of nice triangle shapes. But, before we go. Can everyone look at the boys and girls at home and can we give them a wave and say "see you next Science Time!" Bye! And come and get a picture.
[Science Time theme song plays as all the children come and collect colouring in sheets.]