Build some amazing LEGO tensegrity structures! This is a really fun LEGO STEM challenge that teaches kids about forces and center of gravity.
It’s kind of amazing to see how these structures seem to defy gravity, but they are surprisingly simple to build.
How do tensegrity structures work?
The word “tensegrity” is a combination of the words “tension” and “integrity.”
These structures are amazing to look at because they appear to float! In the photo below, both sets of LEGO chains are exerting a force on the LEGO component that is not attached to the base. These forces make the “floating” possible.
In the photo above, the suspended or “floating” section is hanging from the shorter chains. The neon green chains exerting a downward force that balances the floating section. They obviously aren’t holding the structure up – they don’t have the rigidity to do that! However, they are keeping the suspended section from falling forward, which it would naturally do because of its center of gravity and where it is attached to the base.
Here is the same photo with some arrows to help you see where the forces are.
It’s important to note that the shorter chains can be viewed as a fulcrum. Basically, this structure is a lever that needs to have equal forces on both sides of the fulcrum in order to balance.
This structure is really easy to build with basic bricks. Now let’s try something a little more artistic!
We built a jet and then turned it into a LEGO tensegrity structure.
There is nothing special about the jet. Just build one that you like the looks of! The precise arrangement of the pieces is not super important.
This is what our structure pieces look like. It’s very easy to build the structure with basic bricks.
Connect the short chains first. The weight of the jet will pull it forward, like this. It certainly won’t stand up with just these chains attached!
When you connect the longer chains, they will pull the jet backward and into a position where it can balance.
You’ll need to experiment with the placement of your chains so that the structure will balance. It’s really kind of cool to play with.
Want to set up your own LEGO Tensegrity Structure STEM Challenge? Here are some tips that will make your challenge more fun!
This would be an AWESOME activity for a LEGO or STEM club, or just a way to keep your kids busy on a rainy day.
- You’ll need LEGO chains in both available lengths. I would recommend ordering from Brick Link or Lego.com.
- Instead of chains, another option is to use Technic bricks and liftarms (these are the bricks that have holes in them) and string. Younger kids might do better with chains, while older kids will be able to use string to make smaller adjustments and more precise structures.
- Check out LEGO Ideas for tons more photos of LEGO tensegrity structures!
- This video on Reddit also shows really clearly how the tensegrity structures work.
Need more LEGO STEM challenges? We’ve got tons! LEGO bricks are one of the best possible teaching tools for all kinds of physics and engineering principles.
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