Monday, January 14, 2013

LEGO Skyscraper vs. Earthquake

How tall can we build a LEGO tower before it topples in a simulated earthquake? An inquiring mind wants to know!

We donned our lab coats (a.k.a. pajamas) and played scientists today. First we reviewed the steps to all good scientific inquiries: observation / research / hypothesis / experiment / analysis / conclusion. Our groundwork included watching Bill Nye's DVD on "Structure" and reading "Super Structures: Inside the World's Most Spectacular Buildings".

We built a "shake-table" with 2 boards, 2 elastic bands, and 4 rubber balls. You twist the top board out of alignment and then let go to create a lateral shaking movement just like an earthquake!

Then we started building up our "skyscraper", recording its height and whether the "earthquake" was able to topple it.

It got taller...

... and taller...

... and taller...

... until it finally succumbed to the earthquake at 60.5" tall! Then we tweaked the girth of the tower and discovered that a skinnier tower would fall at a much shorter height.

Scientist Serena filled in her scientific charts with her analysis and conclusion which confirmed her hypothesis that "the taller the tower the easier it falls".

Then she's freed from the standardized constraints of a scientific experiment and started building all sorts of funky towers for the simple joy of toppling them in a massive earthquake!


  1. Wow impressive scientific research and results Serena! Way to go!

  2. Great way to play and learn at the same time.
    It had to be fun to gather up all the pieces
    after the earthquakes.
    Love Nanny & Papa

  3. Thanks for this, I used your results on my research paper for my project. I also noticed that you measured in inches, when the standard measurement system used for science is the metric system (centimeters, meters, ect.). I suggest you use this in further experiments because it is so much easier than the American system of measurement. If you prefer measuring in inches, you can easily turn inches into centimeter with Google (search a number with inches after it, ex. "60.5 inches")

    P.S. The tower height that fell (60.5 inches) is 157.67 centimeters.

  4. Hi
    Just wondering the size of the boards you used and where you would find larger elastics to make this work. I am in Ontario Canada so hopefully you have a suggestion for a fellow Canuck!

    1. Oops, not sure what I did with my reply... let's try again.
      Don't remember the exact size of board, but they weren't big, maybe around 14"x10". Bought some big elastic bands from dollar store, not great quality and broke quite a few. I actually find the bands that come with vegetables like asparagus are quite big and stretchy and may work better. Hope this helps!