Observations and results
In general, did the taller towers fall whereas the shorter towers remained standing? If you varied the footprint of the towers, were the ones with larger footprints generally more stable than the ones with smaller footprints?
Structures that are tall or skinny are generally less stable, making them more likely to fall when exposed to lateral forces, whereas ones that are shorter or wider (at the base) are generally more steadfast. Architects and engineers use all kinds of innovative techniques along with these basic principles to build amazing skyscrapers. Building heights keep creeping upward as technology allows engineers to safely build higher.
One major technological breakthrough that allowed for the creation of skyscrapers in the late 1800s was the development of a material that was lighter and stronger than previously used materials: steel. Before this, buildings were mostly made of brick and stone. Architects and engineers designed skyscrapers with a steel framework that supported the building's weight, which meant that the walls no longer had to be load-bearing (as they had previously been). This development, along with other innovative ideas and materials, allowed for the creation of skyscrapers—and as our technologies continue to improve we are be able to reach ever closer to the sky.
More to explore
"Building BIG: All about Skyscrapers," from PBS
"Learning with LEGO: School–University Partnership (SUP) for Earthquake Engineering Education," from Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER)
"Introduction to Lateral Forces" (pdf), from Professor Deborah J. Oakley for Technology III, University of Maryland, College Park
"Building the Tallest Tower," from Science Buddies
This activity brought to you in partnership with Science Buddies