activity page will offer:
Cooperative group activity in mathematics
in constructing a classroom geodesic dome
operational definition of geodesic dome geometry
a Geodesic Dome
Domes can be built at any size. It's all
a matter of scaling the plans. The basic frame for a geodesic dome
requires two lengths of connecting rods. It also requires a connection
joint that can adjusted to the number and angle of intersecting
rods. In this activity, you'll get to assemble a model dome using
two lengths of newspaper rolls. The joints will be formed from masking
tape. As you'll discover, even a paper and tape model forms a sturdy,
newspaper - Any size would work, as long as pages are consistent
- Work in teams of four. As a team you'll need to produce 65 tubes
that form the framework of your geodesic dome. Each tube is formed
from a stack of three newspaper sheets. Roll the stack from corner
to corner to form a tight tube. Use masking tape to prevent it
- Trim down your rolls to produce two tube sizes. The longer tubes
are 26 inches (or 65 cm) long. You'll need 35 of these longer
ones. The shorter tubes are 24 inches (or 60 cm) long. You'll
need 30 of these shorter ones.
- Create the base by taping ten of the long tubes (26 inches)
together to form a closed geometric shape called a decagon.
- Tape a long tube and a short tube to each of the ten joints
of the decagon. The tubes should be arranged to produce an alternating
pattern of long pairs and short pairs.
- Use masking tape to secure the tops of the adjacent short tubes
together to form a series of five triangles.
- Likewise, form a series of five larger triangles by securing
together the tops of the adjacent long tubes.
- Connect the adjacent tops of these ten triangles together using
a new row of short tubes. As you join these together, you'll form
a zigzag like pattern that begins to curve the dome surface.
- Locate the alternating joints where four short tubes come together.
Tape a short tube to each joint and position it straight out from
the joint as shown in the diagram.
- Connect the end of this tube to the adjacent joints using two
longs. When this step is completed, you will have formed a distinct
5-sided star pattern in the dome's framework.
- Connect the tops of these triangles with a row of longs. This
produces a pentagon.
- Connect a short to each joint of the pentagon. These five shorts
should meet in the center of the dome. Secure this final joint.
- Did you need to use the ruler to measure the length of each
- What was the basic geometric shape of this frame?
- What other shapes did you observe?
- What was the maximum number of tubes that came together at any
Think About It
would increasing the number of component triangles affect the shape
of the dome?
The plans for building a geodesic dome are scalable. In fact, you
can use the steps above to build versions using either plastic straws
or wooden toothpicks. Suppose you needed to scale the measurements
to straws that are 20 cm long. If you opted to use the uncut length
of the straw as the longer rod, what length would the shorter one
need to be cut to? Explain.
The curved shape of the dome structure helps reinforce its integrity.
This produces a lightweight structure that can withstand a good
deal of force. You can explore this characteristic of domes using
an empty and cleaned half shell of a chicken egg that has been prepared
by an adult. Put on safety goggles. Position the shell on a tabletop
so that its end points up. Carefully balance a textbook on the shell's
pointed end. You'll probably need to support the book to prevent
it form slipping off the curved shell surface. Slowly increase the
size of the book stack until the egg cracks. To uncover the weight
that eventually "broke" the egg, place the books on a bathroom scale.
Apply your observation to the use of domes in architecture.
prepare the egg: The adult places the egg on
a dish - remember this can get messy. The adult then uses a sharp
modeling knife to score a ridge along the surface of the shell.
The ridge should be positioned so that it divides the egg into
two equal halves. To prevent the shell from premature cracking,
use a new blade in a gentle back-and-forth sawing motion within
the ridge until the shell separates into two halves.
Compare and contrast a geodesic
dome design with a more traditional dome built from reinforced cement.
Think about the advantages of the geodesic style. You can learn
more about dome structures on the Internet at sites such as:
Domes and History http://www.takenaka.co.jp/takenaka_e/dome_e/
are the advantages in material simplicity?
What are the advantages in illumination?
are the advantages in placing and lifting supports?
by R. Buckminster Fuller
This site presents an autobiography by Buckminster Fuller, the inventor
of the geodesic dome.
Synergetics - Geodesic Domes
Here is a site that offers a freeware DOS utility program in which
the user constructs geodesic domes.
R. Buckminster Fuller FAQ: Geodesic Domes http://www.netaxs.com/people/cjf/fuller-faq-4.html
The site offers a set of questions and answers that explores the
geodesic dome as a housing unit.
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio, a
Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical Thinking
Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound" (Sterling Publishing
Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools, Wayland,
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School, Wayland,
Gary Pinkall, Middle School Science Teacher, Great Bend Public Schools,
Great Bend, KS