The paper Challenge: How strong is a piece of paper?

The paper Challenge: How strong is a piece of paper?

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Many of the world’s buildings and structures are built using the power of columns. In fact, the in ancient times, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians recognised the power of columns in some of their buildings.JI club kaleidoscope (4)

Let’s explore the strength of columns by carrying out an experiment that tests the stability of different shapes when put under the stress of weight.


What you’ll need:

3 pieces of cardboard (in your favourites colours)
A stopwatch

Fold, roll and use tape to create the shapes in the image below. You need to make one cylinder, one triangular prism and one rectangular prism.



Ready to test the strength of these three types of columns?

Stand each of your three shapes on end like columns.

Start with the triangular prism.Using reading books, place a book carefully on the top of the prism. Does it hold the weight? Can you add another book? Even more books?

Complete the same test with the rectangular prism and finally the cylinder.


What shape could manage the most weight?


Conclusion: The cylinder should have supported the most books because there are no edges. The force of the books pushing down is not concentrating on a particular area, so there is no weak point. The load is distributed evenly.The square and triangle deform more easily. They shift the weight of the books to their edges and corners, which deforms their walls and leads to a quick collapse.


Next time you are walking through your town or city, observe the buildings around you. Can you see where columns are used?