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Heavy Lifting: Design Squad

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Heavy Lifting: Design Squad

In this engineering challenge, learners design and build a crane out of cardboard to see how heavy a load it can lift. The lesson plan includes suggestions for how learners can reinforce the weak parts of their cranes, ideas for ways to wind and unwind the crane's cable, and questions about using cranes in space. There are also extension ideas for contests, and a handout with instructions and some additional background.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • cardboard box (shoebox size or bigger)
  • 3 strips of corrugated cardboard (2 x 11 inches/5 x 28 cm)
  • paper clip
  • large paper cup
  • 3 sharpened pencils
  • scissors
  • smooth string (e.g., fishing line or kite string)
  • tape
  • weights (e.g., batteries, pennies, marbles, or gravel)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
      • Construction
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Energy and Power
      • Work and Machines
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
      • Newton's Laws
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection:

  • Design Squad Nation


  • All Rights Reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, ©2008


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