Move That Lighthouse!

This lesson plan explores how engineers work in a team to solve problems. Students learn how structural, economic, and environmental factors must be evaluated when planning to move a lighthouse or other building.

  • Learn how the environment impacts civil engineering.
  • Learn how structures can be moved.
  • Learn how engineering teams address problem solving.
  • Learn about teamwork and working in groups.

 Age Levels: 8-18

Build Materials (For each team)

Required Materials (Trading/Table of Possibilities)

  • Blocks
  • Weighted milk cartons
  • Stacks of books
  • Cans of soup, vegetables, etc.
  • Strips of cardboard
  • String
  • Small gauge wire or pipe cleaners
  • Wood dowels
  • Rollers or casters
  • Plastic sheets

Testing Materials

  • Desk or small table
  • Fan (for weather element challenge)

Materials

  • Desk or small table
  • Fan (for weather element challenge)

Process

Test each team’s “moving system” design by placing the lighthouse and system on top of a desk or table. The student team should then slowly push or pull the desk/table for a total distance of 10 feet. Each team decides how they want to move the desk/table. The goal is to safely move the structure without it falling over.

For an added challenge, add a fan to the testing process to introduce a “weather” element.

Design Challenge

You are a team of engineers which has to tackle the challenge of building a 2 foot tall lighthouse and then moving the lighthouse 10 feet without it falling.

Criteria

  • Lighthouse must be at least 2 feet tall.

Constraints

  • Cannot touch the lighthouse with your hands as you are moving it.
  • You may move the desk/table with your hands.
  • May attach materials to the lighthouse to secure it and to assist with the move.
  • Use only the materials provided.

Teams may trade unlimited materials.

  1. Break class into teams of 2-4.
  2. Hand out the Move That Lighthouse worksheet, as well as some sheets of paper for sketching designs.
  3. Discuss the topics in the Background Concepts Section. Ask students to consider ways they can reinforce their lighthouse to protect it during the move.
  4. Review the Engineering Design Process, Design Challenge, Criteria, Constraints and Materials.
  5. Provide each team with their materials.
  6. Explain that students must design and build a system to safely move a two foot tall lighthouse 10 feet. The lighthouse will be built from materials you’ve provided (books, blocks, weighted milk containers, cans of food — each team must use the same materials).
  7. Announce the amount of time they have to design and build (1 hour recommended).
  8. Use a timer or an on-line stopwatch (count down feature) to ensure you keep on time. (www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-stopwatch). Give students regular “time checks” so they stay on task. If they are struggling, ask questions that will lead them to a solution quicker.
  9. Students meet and develop a system for moving their lighthouse. They agree on materials they will need, write/draw their plan, and present their plan to the class. Teams may trade unlimited materials with other teams to develop their ideal parts list.
  10. Teams build their designs.
  11. Test each team’s “moving system” design by placing the lighthouse and system on top of a desk or table. The student team should then slowly push or pull the desk/table for a total distance of 10 feet. Each team decides how they want to move the desk/table. The goal is to safely move the structure without it falling over.For an added challenge, add a fan to the testing process to introduce a “weather” element.
  12. Teams should document the distance they moved their lighthouse without it falling.
  13. As a class, discuss the student reflection questions.
  14. For more content on the topic, see the “Digging Deeper” section.

Student Reflection (engineering notebook)

  1. Did you succeed in moving the desk without damaging the tower?
  2. What percentage of time did you spend planning the movement of the desk versus the reinforcement of the tower? Why?
  3. In a real world application, why would reinforcement of the structure during a move be important? What safety issues would this address?
  4. What method did you choose to move the desk? Push? Pull?
  5. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? Why?
  6. What designs or methods did you see other teams try that you thought worked well?
  7. Did you find that there were many ways to solve this challenge? If so, what does that tell you about the construction of buildings, homes, boats, cars, and other things in real life?
  8. Do you think you would have been able to achieve your goal of moving the tower if you were working alone? Why?  Why not?
  9. What reinforcements do you think would be needed to secure the contents of the space shuttle during a move?
  10. What safety procedures would you impose if your school building was to be moved, so that the contents of your classroom were not damaged? Think about animals, fragile items, stacks of books, other items that would be at risk.

Time Modification

The lesson can be done in as little as 1 class period for older students. However, to help students from feeling rushed and to ensure student success (especially for younger students), split the lesson into two periods giving students more time to brainstorm, test ideas and finalize their design. Conduct the testing and debrief in the next class period.

Divide into teams
Review the challenge and criteria constraints
Brainstorm possible solutions (sketch while you brainstorm!)
Choose best solution and build a prototype
Test then redesign until solution is optimized
Reflect as a team and debrief as a class

Lighthouses on the Move 

cmphotographs-bigstock.com

An aid for navigation and ships at sea, a lighthouse is a tower building or framework sending out light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire. Lighthouses also provide coordinate location for small aircraft traveling at night. More primitive navigational aids were once used such as a fire on top of a hill or cliff.

Because of modern navigational aids, the number of operational lighthouses has declined to less than 1,500 worldwide. Lighthouses are used to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals away from the coast, and safe entries to harbors.

Lighthouses are built very close to the coastline, so they are frequently victims to erosion as the sea takes back coastal land. All over the globe, lighthouses have been torn down or lost to the sea — and many have been rescued through engineering plans which move the lighthouse further back on land. In many cases, engineers have made sure that a lighthouse move was done in such a way that the lighthouse could be moved again — as the sea tears more land away.

The Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy Head in Sussex, United Kingdom was moved in 1999. The company who engineered the move — Abbey Pynford — moved the 160-year-old lighthouse because it was threatened with destruction by the rapidly eroding cliffs where it stood. The building weighs 850 tonnes and had to be moved 17 metres using sliding techniques. The most difficult aspect of the project was in successfully moving the lighthouse without the cliffs giving way. The slope of the cliffs also presented a tough challenge being higher at the edge than they were further back — a new one-story building had to be constructed for the lighthouse to stand on.

Internet Connections

Recommended Reading

  • Out of Harm’s Way: Moving America’s Lighthouse (ISBN: 1885457154)
  • Cape Hatteras: America’s Lighthouse (ISBN: 158182033X)
  • Moving a House With Preservation in Mind (ISBN: 0759109575) 

Writing Activity

Write an essay or a paragraph describing the factors engineers had to consider when approaching the move of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Note: Lesson plans in this series are aligned to one or more of the following sets of standards:  

National Science Education Standards Grades K-4 (ages 4 – 9)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
  • Understanding about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

As a result of the activities, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties of objects and materials 
  • Position and motion of objects

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Changes in environments 
  • Science and technology in local challenges 

National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10 – 14)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

As a result of their activities, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties and changes of properties in matter 

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Populations, resources, and environments 
  • Natural hazards 
  • Risks and benefits 

National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18)

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science 

As a result of their activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Structure and properties of matter 
  • Interactions of energy and matter 

National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18)

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design 
  • Understandings about science and technology 

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Environmental quality 
  • Natural and human-induced hazards 
  • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges 

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Historical perspectives 

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 2-5 (Ages 7-11)

Matter and its Interactions 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 2-PS1-2.  Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.

Engineering Design 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1.Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2.Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3.Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-14)

Engineering Design 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Standards for Technological Literacy – All Ages

The Nature of Technology

  • Standard 1: Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology.
  • Standard 3: Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study.

Standards for Technological Literacy – All Ages

Technology and Society

  • Standard 4: Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology.
  • Standard 5: Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the environment.
  • Standard 7: Students will develop an understanding of the influence of technology on history.

Design

  • Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

Abilities for a Technological World

  • Standard 13: Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems.

The Designed World

  • Standard 18: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use transportation technologies.
  • Standard 20: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use construction technologies.

You are a team of engineers which has to tackle the challenge of moving a lighthouse without damaging the original structure!

Construction Steps

  1. Review the various Student Reference Sheets.
  2. Your team has been provided with some “building materials” by your teacher. These are to be made into a tower at least two feet tall — your lighthouse. It must sit on top of a desk without tumbling over.  You should consider reinforcement options to protect your lighthouse during the move.

Moving Plans

  1. Now, meet with your team and devised a way of securing your tower and then moving your desk with the tower atop ten feet without having the tower fall. You may use limited materials (tape, pencils, string, cardboard) and you may move your desk using your hands.
  2. Write or draw your plan in the box below, and present your moving plan to the class. You may choose to revise your teams’ plan after you receive feedback from class. Give some consideration to the speed at which you plan to move the desk, the method you will use (push, pull, with or without additional tools), and what you think you need to do to make sure your tower does not fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Move!

  1. Give it a try! Execute your plan and move your desk and tower!
  2. Evaluate your teams’ results, complete the evaluation worksheet, and present your findings to the class.

Use this worksheet to evaluate your teams’ results in your challenge of moving a tower without damaging the original structure!

  1. Did you succeed in moving the desk without damaging the tower?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What percentage of time did you spend planning the movement of the desk versus the reinforcement of the tower? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. In a real world application, why would reinforcement of the structure during a move be important? What safety issues would this address?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What method did you choose to move the desk? Push? Pull?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What designs or methods did you see other teams try that you thought worked well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Did you find that there were many ways to solve this challenge? If so, what does that tell you about the construction of buildings, homes, boats, cars, and other things in real life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think you would have been able to achieve your goal of moving the tower if you were working alone? Why?  Why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What reinforcements do you think would be needed to secure the contents of the space shuttle during a move?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What safely procedures would you impose if your school building was to be moved, so that the contents of your classroom were not damaged? Think about animals, fragile items, stacks of books, other items that would be at risk.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Plan Translation

Additional Translation Resources

Downloadable Student Certificate of Completion