The Squeeze is On

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Each group of learners uses everyday materials, such as paper, toothpicks, and tape to design and construct a structure intended to support the weight of a cinder block for 30 seconds. Learners utilize the engineering design process, work within constraints of time and materials, and learn about the force of compression and how it acts on structural components. Investigating questions can be used for assessment and discussion. Sample rubric included.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • piece of wood (a smooth flat object to put the cinder blocks on)
  • (4) 3" x 5" index cards
  • 8.5" x 11" copy paper
  • 8.5" x 11" plastic transparency
  • 12" masking tape
  • 15 toothpicks (optional)
  • 2 drinking straws (optional)
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • safety glasses, 4 pairs
  • cinder blocks (or uniform text books)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2013