How Strong is Paper?

We have an engineer in our family... she's always playing with pulleys and levers and constructing things. This time we were playing with compression and tension. Let's see what we can learn...

Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Paper and books! Just that. Let's see how strong that paper is!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    Maddie took two pieces of paper, and folded each sheet in half horizontally.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    She made little tents out of them, side by side, and I asked her if she thought the paper would hold up a book. She laughed. "No! It will just smash the paper down!"

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    She was right.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

    Next we took three pieces of paper, folded them into thirds (across, this time), and taped the ends together. How would these fare? How strong would they be? How much weight would they support?

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Step 6

    One.... two...... three..... four......

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

  • Step 7

    Four! Woohoo!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 7

  • Step 8

    Now let's check round pillars... We took three pieces of paper, rolled them each around a can, taped the two ends, then slid the can out.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 8

  • Step 9

    How will these hold up? One...two...three...

    Photo reference of how to complete step 9

  • Step 10

    Four...five...six...seven...eight...nine...ten!...

    Photo reference of how to complete step 10

  • Done!

    Still going at fourteen... How many will they hold? Why don't you go find out!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 11

Share what you made & tag us at!