Building a Straw Tower

by Jimmie Lanley on May 27, 2009

Using only tape and straws,  Sprite and I built a tower capable of holding a baseball! Here’s proof!

straw tower on porch

Tower from Straws and Tape

This  assignment from the Livingmath.net curriculum was not an easy project because there were no directions, just an assignment — build a tower from straws.  Never having constructed anything like this nor ever having seen a straw tower, I was rather frustrated at the lack of detail offered. I mean, how can we make something that we have no concept of at all?

I could only find one resource that had directions — How to Build a Straw Tower Capable of Holding a Baseball. So we roughly followed the guidelines laid out there, and it worked. Sprite and I are not short on creativity, but we certainly need some sort of foundation to work on. The article fit the bill. Here are our steps.

straw tower cutting strawsstraw towe square and triangle

First we had to cut off the bendy part of each straw. Then we made a triangle and a square to compare the strengths of each shape. It was easy to see that a triangle is much stronger than a square. But we followed our directions and made an octagon base pentagon base. (Whoops! Thanks, Chaz, for pointing out my error.)

straw tower making pentagon base

straw tower making long side1 straw tower making long side3

For the side structures, we made long pieces from six straws by inserting straws into other straws.

straw tower making long side straw tower long sides and base done

We used tape to reinforce the joints. Here are our completed base and sides.

straw tower taping sides to base straw tower taping supports

Then we began connecting the sides to the base. Just taping this thing together was tricky! We tried lots of ways before we found methods that worked. We used a LOT of tape. But there was nothing in the directions about being pretty. The one criteria was that it hold a baseball.

straw tower center support

We also constructed a center support. Then we were exhausted and tired of yellow straws! So things got a bit silly!

straw tower acting silly straw tower microphone

sprite trimming straw tower close up of tape1

The next day, we resumed work on the tower. We trimmed it to a shorter height and added horizontal  supports all around. Not pretty, by any means, but it was strong! Now the test. Here is Sprite, gingerly testing the structure with a baseball.

placing the baseball1placing the baseball2placing the baseball3

IT WORKS!

placing the baseball4

Books with projects using straws:

Or cheat with a building kit:

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