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Straws and Pins

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    The Exploratorium

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Straws and Pins

In this activity, learners build bridges and cantilevers in a series of "building out" challenges with straws and pins. In doing so, learners will experience many of the basic physics and engineering concepts inherent in structures as well explore the concepts of torque and center-of-mass. This resource guide contains background information, discussion questions and extensions. Paper clips can be used by younger learners in place of pins.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

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

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model

English, French, Italian

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 50 plastic straws
  • 50 straight pins or paper clips
  • 1 or 2 feet of strong tape (e.g., duct tape)
  • Scissors, for cutting straws
  • 10 weights (e.g., large washers or film canisters filled with sand)
  • Yardstick or meterstick


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
    • Technology
      • Construction
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Center of Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Foreign language versions of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection:

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All Rights Reserved, The Exploratorium, ©2000

Funding Source:

  • Unisys


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