Build a Bridge

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In this activity, learners use recycled materials to build a bridge that holds as many potatoes as possible. They investigate weight, height, strength, and measurement as they seek design solutions. The activity instructions include ways to adjust the level of challenge for learners of different ages. Try this at family events or to engage all ages. Available as a web page and a downloadable PDF.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls (or, make tightly rolled tubes using newspaper and tape)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Flat cardboard from cereal boxes
  • Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
  • Rulers
  • Potatoes (about 1/3 pound each)
  • Cafeteria trays or other flat, sturdy base for moving and storing bridges (Optional)
  • Toy vehicles or animals 4”-6” high (Easy)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Model Building
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Mixing in Math

Funding Source:

  • NSF, ESI-0406675 and DRL-0713537