Teaching with duct tape
March 27, 2013 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I have recently been tasked with "presenting or proving a physical/engineering concept" using duct tape as a primary tool. Any ideas?

To give you an idea of what sort of concepts we're talking about here, here are some of the things we've brainstormed so far:
  • Finding the tensile strength of a strip of duct tape
  • Constructing miniature duct tape "boats" to compare the effects of drag on different hull shapes
  • Twisting strips of duct tape to make strings for a duct tape harp (the concept being something about frequency/vibration)
  • Measuring the coefficient of friction of duct tape (sticky side vs. non-sticky side)
We don't have access to super-specialized equipment, but we do have access to hand tools, a machine shop, and a high-speed camera. Full disclosure: this is for a class I am currently taking -- however, it's pretty much an end-of-term "for fun" sort of thing, with entertainment being the primary goal. The group I'm working with has decided we're going to try and run with this as far as we can go, so no idea is too outlandish!
posted by btfreek to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by empath at 9:06 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dunno, but you might be able to use a technique like this to turn rolls of duct tape into machined gears to build something fun like, say, a duct tape Antikythera mechanism.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:23 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your boats idea immediately made me think of planes and gliders and the like. Maybe you could make a duct tape balloon and test drops from a great height? You could vary the thickness and size of the balloon, and have an unchanging weight strapped to it as the control.

... Well, something of the sort, anyway. Just throwing this out there. :)
posted by aroweofshale at 9:41 PM on March 27, 2013

Hmmmm. Tallest self-supporting structure that can be made with a single roll of duct tape. Number of heavy objects that can be suspended over a 10' gap by one roll of duct tape.
posted by Good Brain at 10:12 PM on March 27, 2013

Per the tensile strength one, you could extend it further. Compare a single strip, half a strip wide, twisted, strip, braided twisted strips, make duct tape rope, or even weave ductape cloth to make support harnesses.

Go watch the Mythbusters multiple duct tape specials!
posted by strixus at 1:11 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

After testing the tensile strength, make a scale model of a suspension bridge using duct tape as the cables. Calculate how much tape you need to make the bridge take the weight of a person.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:15 AM on March 28, 2013

You could attach weights to the end of different lengths of tape to make pendulums and talk about simple harmonic motion, etc.
posted by steinwald at 9:06 AM on March 28, 2013

This isn't exactly a "presenting or proving a physical/engineering concept" but as long as you are spending a lot of time with duct tape, you should tell your students that the last person to use the roll should bend the last half inch of the tape back under itself so that the next person to use it can easily grab this "tab" of tape and not have to spend five minutes trying to scrape the end of the tape off of the roll with their fingernails. This trick is really nice to use on a roll of clear cellophane tape but it can be used with duct tape too.
posted by digsrus at 10:13 AM on March 28, 2013

You could attach weights to the end of different lengths of tape to make pendulums and talk about simple harmonic motion, etc.

by "weights,"you did mean "people," right?
posted by selfmedicating at 5:17 PM on March 28, 2013

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