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Summer Brain Games

Experiment: Skyscraper Engineering

Chicago is home to unique skyscraper designs. Be an architect and engineer your own skyscraper! Some planning and experimentation will get you on your way to constructing buildings that can withstand all sorts of conditions.

Instrucciones en EspaƱol


Pencil or pen
Building materials, like newspaper, tape, disposable cups, craft sticks, straws, glue, cardstock, string, fabric, paper, old boxes, food containers
Hair dryer or fan
Weights, like coins, metal washers or cans of food


  1. Plan to build a skyscraper that's at least two feet tall. Think like an architect: What will your skyscraper look like? What will its purpose be? Will people live there, work there, play there? Think like an engineer: What shapes will strengthen your skyscraper? Engineers must consider the effect of forces that can change quickly; these are called "dynamic loads." Earthquakes and wind are two examples of dynamic loads.
  2. Sketch your skyscraper. What unique design features will you add? How will you make sure it is strong and remains standing?
  3. Gather your materials and build your skyscraper. What building materials will you use? What can you use to make it unique? use a ruler to make sure it's at least two feet tall!
  4. Put your skyscraper to the test to see if it remains intact.
    Wind: Aim a hair dryer or fan at your skyscraper.
    Earthquake: Gently shake the table your building is on. 
    Weight: Add weights to the top of your skyscraper.
  5. Brainstorm ways to improve your skyscraper. What works? What doesn't? What modifications are needed? Rebuild and test it again to see if you've made it better!

What's Happening?

Many skilled people work together to design, plan and build skyscrapers. In addition to how a building is going to be used, architects and engineers have to think about how weather and city conditions will affect the skyscraper. An architect chooses how a skyscraper will look and its function. An engineer chooses what materials are needed to make sure the architect's design creates a strong structure. Once a skyscraper has been designed, skilled tradespeople like carpenters and electricians work with engineers and architects to construct it.

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