Weston Middle School

Technology/Engineering Course Materials

Weston, Massachusetts
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Class Notes




Additional Material

Day Main Ideas
Activities Examples and Extensions

Introduction to technology and engineering
  • Intro
  • Attendance
  • Partner Preferences
  • Expectations
  • Overview
  • Discussion: What is technology?
  • Discussion: What is engineering?

1 Engineering problems have a diversity of solutions

Engineers learn to analyze failure

Columns are structural elements

A structure can support a load

Paper Columns

Using 5 sheets of paper and 12" of tape, create a structure than can support a minumum of 2 bricks 8- 1/2" above the ground.

Discussion of failure modes:

  • Buckling
  • Tipping over
  • Crushing

Calculate snow load on the roof

Design A Snowshoe

Rods vs Tubes( Lorna Gibson, MIT)

Local Buckling

Columns in Nature (Lorna Gibson, MIT)
2-3 Columns are strong if kept vertical( axial compression) but weak in bending.

The strength of columns to resist buckling depends on their length, material, and cross section.

New materials and technologies dictate what can be built.

Floppy Towers

  • I- Basic Towers
  • II-Rolling paper
  • III-Guy wires
Demo of Building Techniques- guy wires, rolling paper


Floppy Towers 

Video: Making Stuff - Stronger

Paper Cables

5 Forces that act on structures include tension, compression, torsion, and shear

Forces that act on Structures

Forces mini-activities from Building Big

Tufts Engineering Bridge Library

Video: Bill Nye- Structures

Bill Nye-Structures Video

Catenary arches are self-supporting

By combining materials with different mechanical properties, structural elements can be made stronger

Arches and Columns:

Demo: Arch Bridge

Sand Columns

Demo: Paper Cup Columns

Measuring the compressive Strength of an Egg

Properties of Bones

Cathedrals and Arches

Numberphile: Catenary Arches


Beams are horizontal elements that carry a load. They must be able to resist bending by being strong in tension along the bottom and in compression along the top


Paper Cantilever beam

Activity: Cardboard Beam Bridges

How does the web height and flange width of an I-beam affect the strength of a beam?

Structural Systems combine vertical, horizontal, and diagonal elements to create 2-dimensional structural systems such as trusses, and 3-dimensional systems such as frames.

Slideshow: Post-and-Lintel Architecture

Slideshow: Types of Structures

Slideshow: Space Frames

Build a simple truss using straws and pins.

Build a simple frame

Build plate + girder structures


Sheathing refers to the outer layer of a building structure, providing insulation, wind and rain protection, and visual appearance.

Bridge Types
Structures handout pdf

Types of Bridges
Review types of bridge structures

MIT+K12: Beam and Arch Bridges

MIT-K12: Bridge Design and Destruction


Summary of Building Big/Bridges

Why did Greek Temples have all those columns?

What new material did Abraham Darby introduce?

What forces are at work when a train went over Eiffel's truss bridge?

How does a cantilever work?

What was the problem with cantilever bridges?

Video: Building Big-Bridges

Demos During Video:

  • Cantilever-students sit on extended beam
  • Twisted (wire) rope- Roebling- students twist paper into fibers, then combine into cables- enables equal stress on all fibers
  • Caisson Demo-plastic cup in water
  • Harmonic Vibration-plucked string

Building Big Website Activities-

Building Big Worksheet

Video excerpts:

Roman Arches

Train Truss Animation

Firth of Forth Cantilever Bridge

How Cantilver Bridges Work

Clifton Gorge Suspension Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Local Bridge Examples

Strauss Bridge at North Station(video)

OTHER STRUCTURES-cobswebs, etc.

Wikipedia- Cable Stayed Bridges

Active Statics


15-17  Engineering structures are typically designed, tested, and optimized using engineering simulation programs.

West Point Bridge Designer

  • Optimize Pratt Deck Truss
  • 24/12 Arch Bridge
  • Original Design
  • Stayed Cable/Suspension Bridge
  • Folly

West Point Bridge Designer


 Just as a great general concentrates his forces where they are needed, an efficient design engineer puts the most material where it is most needed . I-Beams are strengthened most by increasing their web(height) dimension, because of the direction of the applied load.

Arches and trusses aim to maximize tension and compression stress, and minimize bending stress.

 Straw Bridges

  • Building Techniques with Straws/Messing around
  • Build Beam Bridge Standard Model with Straws on cardboard using template (4" x 14")
  • Live Load, Dead Load, Efficiency

Do truss bridges in West Point Bridge Designer -see below

Straw Bridges Part II:

Truss example:

Sagamore Bridge

  Stayed-cable bridges, sometimes confused with suspension bridges, use a series of cables(stays) radiating from a central pylon to support the bridge deck

Demo: Stayed-cable Model of Zakim Bridge

Bridges as Sculpture: The Work of Christian Menn



MCAS Question Review -Bridges

MCAS Question Search


     Video: Bill Nye: Architecture

Tour of School building systems

Plan, elevation, and section drawing of fruit

  Architects design using 3-D programs

3-D Modeling using Google SketchUp

See Teacherweb:


Basics of House Design

 House Styles

Style Gallery


 Issues in Site Selection


Video Overview of Timberframing

Site Selection/ Footings and Foundations/Sill Plan

Footings demo with sponge-rubber

Optional: Site Model


 Parts of a House

Purpose of foundation

Layout of Sills


  • Constructing Sills and Joists
  • Designing Bents
  • Assembling Bents
  • Connecting Bents
  • Rough-In Framing-Doors and Windows
  • Roof Framing
  •  Sheathing/Insulation
 This Old House

Timberframe terminology

Marking and cutting wood

 Bent Designs

 Designing bents

Miter Saw techniques

28  Girts, ridgebeam  
29 Rough-in Framing for doors and windows  

Roof framing

Building Stairs

Timberframe Trusses
31  Sheathing Notes- insulation, moisture barrier, appearance; stressed-skin panels  
32  Community Planning considerations  Communities  

Geodesic Domes

Dome Calculator

33    MCAS Review  
34    Course Summary  


Paper Towers

Revised January 2015 by Jonathan Dietz, dietzj@weston.org