Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Earthquakes: The Quake & Shake Challenge

This is one of the greatest projects I've done with my students. I hope you'll stick with me through the explanations - there will be several posts full of lots of words and not many pictures (I've got pictures of students working on the project, but they aren't pictures I have permission to post on the Internet).

But, before I can tell you about the project itself, I need to disclose that this is not an original idea.  The original activity was called Shake, Rattle and Roll.  I have searched to the end of the Internet to find the original activity but cannot put my hands on it.  If someone else knows of it, PLEASE let me know so that proper credit can be given. 

Okay... that was a lot of rambling on... let's get to the good stuff.

The students are presented with the following task:
The city of San Francisco has given you a plot of land and a budget of $20,000 to design, build and test your model of a 3 story structure: house, apartment building, factory, etc. that is earthquake-resistant.  Each story must be a minimum of 15 cm high, contain a floor and have a base length and width of 20 cm x 20 cm.  The entire structure cannot exceed 50 cm. 

The purpose of your work is to use your knowledge of earthquakes to construct an earthquake resistant building within the budget limits and a time limit of 8 days.
On the day in which I tell students about their challenge, I also tell them about each of the 4 roles they can have on their team:

Construction foreperson: This person oversees the entire construction of the model.
  1. Communicates with the buyer on what materials are needed for the model.
  2. Communicates with the accountant regarding availability of funds.
  3. Responsible for testing on earthquake simulator.
  4. Promotes cooperation among all the builders.
  5. Salary: $200 per day

Architect: This person oversees the designing of the model.
  1. Draws the building plans with details and materials labeled.
  2. Drawing must be neat and to scale.  Use pencils, rulers, compass and/or protractor.
  3. Promotes cooperation among all the builders.
  4. Salary: $350 per day

Accountant: This person takes care of the entire budget and makes sure the team does not overspend.
  1. Responsible for checkbook balancing, check writing and signing
  2. Communicates with construction foreperson on availability of funds.
  3. Keeps a record of expenses and salary payouts.
  4. Promotes cooperation among all builders.
  5. Salary: $250 per day

Buyer: This person is the buyer of all supplies needed to construct the model.
  1. Purchase materials needed for construction
  2. Communicate with construction foreperson on supply needs.
  3. Communicate with accountant on funds needed and funds spent.
  4. May only go to Mrs. Hickland's Home Depot once per day.
  5. Promotes cooperation among all builders.
  6. Salary: $150 per day

After hearing of all the options, the students rank their job choices in order of preference.  Before leaving class, they hand me their ranked lists.  I make groups by attempting to give each student his/her first or second choice of job.  It usually works out that I can accommodate all students in that way.  However, if I have to resort to a lower choice for a student, I will usually try to compensate in some other manner, such as putting that student in a group I know he/she would enjoy working with. 

Tune back in next Tuesday when I share with you how things proceed after students receive their jobs and teams!

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