Make a tensegrity structure : Fizzics Education

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Make a tensegrity structure

Make a tensegrity structure

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • 16 Craft Paddle Pop sticks. You might find that tongue depressors are easier to work with as they are larger and easier to cut. Have some spare ones on hand in case you break the sticks in the process.
  • Craft PVA Glue. If you have a hot glue gun this will be stronger and the setup will be faster too.
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors (side cutters can be very handy for making notches in the paddle pop sticks)
  • String

Copyright

1 Notches in the paddle pop sticks close up

Make 2 groups of 5 notches on both ends of each paddle pop, making sure that the notches are directly opposite each other.

The shapes of each notch matter – look closely at the image. Starting from the end of the paddle pop stick, you can see that for each side;

  • The first notch is square-shaped (large enough to fit another paddle pop stick in it).
  • The second notch is a simple V-shaped cut.
  • The third notch is a wider rectangular notch.
  • The fourth cut is another V-shaped cut.
  • The fifth notch is square-shaped, just like the first one.
2 Notches in the paddle pop sticks

Repeat this on both sides of each paddle pop stick and on each end. This should produce 20 notches on each paddle pop stick in total.

3 Step 1 with two paddle pop sticks connected

Place two paddle pop sticks together to form a right angle using the first notch.

4 Step 2 with three paddle pop sticks connected

Insert a paddle pop stick in the next square-shaped groove (fifth from the end) and flip the structure over.

5 Step 3 with five paddle pop sticks connected

Place two paddle pop sticks on the other side of the first two sticks, so that the middle two sticks are in between the pillars.

6 Step 3 with six paddle pop sticks connected

Rotate the structure onto its side. Using another stick, place glue on the middle, and glue it on the base closest to the inner pillar as shown in the picture above.

Allow the glue to dry before proceeding further (otherwise use a hot glue gun instead to speed up the process).

7 Two cut pieces of paddle pop stick

Get 2 sticks and cut them down to this size and attach them on the end of the structure as pictured in the next step.

8 Half of the tensegrity structure completed

Attach the cut stick to the inner grove (shown on the right side in the picture).

This will be known as the bottom piece.

9 Step 3 with five paddle pop sticks connected

Repeat steps 3 to 5 to make another piece shown in the picture.

10

Turn this new piece on its side. This time, glue a stick horizontally at the edge of the top stick as shown. Then cut the bottom stick at the right inner grove. Your structure should tilt slightly.

This will be known as the top piece

11 A 3cm loop of twine next to a ruler 500 x 500px

Create a 3cm loop of string

12 Scissors cutting some cotton string

Cut two 20cm lengths of string.

13

Attach the loop onto the short stick in the bottom piece & tape this down tightly.

14 paddle pop sticks suspended in the air

Flip the top piece upside-down and place the short stick into the loop. The two horizontal sticks should line up over each other now. Tape the string at each end, allowing for some overhang and ensure the strings are tight.

Your tensegrity structure is complete!

15 Fizzics Education making a cloud from liquid nitrogen and hot water at MAAS

What is going on?

Tensegrity explores materials & components being under compression, that are balanced out by a tension force to create a “floating structure”. Gravity pushing down on the paddle pop sticks puts the structure under compression. The string then exerts a tension force equal to gravity, which balances out the forces, creating tensegrity.

A tensegrity structure made of wood, chains and hooks on a picnic table

Applications

Tensegrity is seen in all sorts of natural processes. Spider web uses the properties of tensegrity to be one of the strongest materials in the world. Engineers use tensegrity to create structures, this can be seen in the Spodek stadium in Poland, the Kuripla bridge in Brisbane and Hirshorns’ needle tower in the USA. Bike wheels also use tensegrity to hold themselves together. Finally, our human body is a perfect example of tensegrity where the muscles and ligaments are under compression, and our bones are under tension.

The main benefit of tensegrity is that you can stabilise a structure through tension. Additionally, structures using tensegrity are easily tunable and can be moved and deployed in multiple situations (you can buy camping tents that use tensegrity too!)., Deployable, Efficient Structures, Reliable modelling, Perform multiple functions.

Another version to make!

Variables to Explore

  • Try changing the length of the strings and see what happens
  • Try changing to a thinner string, and see if it still work?
  • Try adding a tiny weight to the structure. How much can your structure hold?

More on variables here

Learn more!

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