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Engineering Towers | Elementary School Educator Curriculum

El Pueblo: The Watts Towers

Build a tower through the lens of different careers.

Work with other students in groups to formulate a sound approach to building a tower. Students will use various lenses to tackle design challenges as they arise. The key to success is always a matter of collaboration and communication to meet the design challenge.

OBJECTIVE: Learners will be able to work together through different “lenses” to build a tower.

How and why would understanding your materials help you build a better tower?

As an inquiry into the properties of different solid matter you and your team will work together to create a tower out of “trash.” After your tower is built, you and your team will present your work along with the commentary about what you learned as a team member, an artist, a scientist, and an engineer. As a culminating activity, all the towers will be arranged together to create a “pueblo” or “town” that represents your community.

You will need to work together collaboratively to

  • Create a design of your tower
  • Consider the structural integrity of your tower (how strong and stable it is)
  • Consider the aesthetic impact (how it looks and how people respond to it)
  • Plan the construction of your tower
  • Build and test your tower to ensure that it can withstand an earthquake test
  • Create and give a presentation about your work and learning process
  • Reflect on your understanding of solid materials throughout this process

You will be evaluated on

  • How you collaborate with your team
  • The detail and completeness of your design
  • Your project plan
  • Your explanation of how and why you included certain elements in your design
  • Your interactive notebook responses
  • Your final presentation


  1. Share with students the task – building a tower.
  2. Work with their group on generating questions they have about the project.
  3. Have them reflect on the communication process and the importance of asking clarifying questions.


Criteria and Constraint

  • Structure
    • Reach a minimum height of 3 Feet
    • *Must fit a 1ft by 1ft platform
    • *Must be able to be transported across the room
    • Can have little or no visible evidence of stress after an earthquake test (torsion, shear, compression, bulge)
    • Must be the structure depicted in written/drawn plan
  • Materials variety of materials
    • *Materials are chosen based on their properties
    • Must be made of T4T materials or found materials
  • Connections
    • Uses at least 2 connection types
    • *Cannot use tape or glue


Criteria and Constraints

  • Plan
    • Must have an idea or feeling to be expressed
    • Must create a design that expresses the focus idea or message
    • Includes ideas or elements from all team members
    • Considers the aesthetics and color of material type
    • Considers how materials function and interact
  • Drawing
    • Must include all the component parts
    • Must depict and label materials used
    • Must depict how pieces will be connected
    • Shows more than one perspective
    • Has close ups of details
    • Must include a rational for decisions
  • Revision
    • Every change is depicted in the plan
    • Changes are documented in different colors
    • If necessary revisions are documented on new paper or overlaid with post-it/taped papers
    • *cannot erase