This activity is the first of what I hope will be many engineering with bamboo. Bamboo is an amazing building material, and the lab includes some photos of some of the things for which it is used around the world. The most amazing to me is the bamboo scaffolding used in many countries in Asia.
The one thing you need to consider before starting this activity is that you will need a source of bamboo. For this activity, bamboo chopsticks might work fine, or even sticks of similar sizes. I have access to bamboo grown in Massachusetts, and I was able to cut it to length and split it into thirds. My plan is to plant bamboo on the school grounds and have a ready supply for future projects. You may be able to find bamboo at a garden center or even order it online. The other supplies are readily available at garden centers and hardware stores.
The basic idea is to build a cube using bamboo pieces of approximately the same length tied with twine. Once students are familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of twine, they then try using galvanized wire and nylon zip ties. Each have benefits and drawbacks compared with the string.
The lab report is in tow parts. The first part asks students follow the engineering design process to brainstorm ideas and then working collaboratively with classmates, come up with a plan for building a cube. The second part includes the testing and evaluation of the new materials. On both parts, students are asked to reflect on the process and consider what to do next.
A rubric is included, along with several photos of the building in action and the materials. This is a great engineering activity, and it is worth investing in the materials necessary to complete it. As with all of my engineering activities, I feel it is absolutely necessary to let students work with quality materials. You can not teach engineering effectively limited to just what you find in your recycling bin (although that is a great place to start).