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Straw House by Brenett, Kim, Lucretia and Omney

We belong to Montana's Crow Nation. We love our reservation, but there aren't enough houses. We need to find a cheap way to build durable homes. There's straw all over the place, so we did some experiments to see if straw bales could be used to build a house.

What did we do?
We grabbed three building materials for our test: a plain straw bale, a straw bale covered in stucco and a cinderblock. First, we tested each block with a blowtorch and checked for burning, cracking and melting. Then we tested each sample to see if it was a good insulator by placing a thermometer on the back and heating the front with a blowtorch. Finally, we stuck a cloth in each of the blocks and let them soak in a stream for an hour to see if they were waterproof.

What did we find out?
We found out that straw alone burned right away and wasn't waterproof, but it was a pretty good insulator. The cinderblock was fireproof and waterproof and didn't transfer heat at all. Straw with stucco didn't burn, either. Plus, it was waterproof and didn't transfer heat. So we concluded that straw with stucco could make a durable, affordable building material. We'll use this method to build our reservation's new community center. Raise the roof! (By the way, our science project won the Bayer/National Science Foundation's National Championship Award!)

What can you do?
  • Structures come in lots of shapes and sizes. Build a bridge out of 100 toothpicks and glue that can support 10 lbs of weight without breaking. Design different shapes in your bridge, like triangles, squares or diamonds and compare how well the shapes hold up under pressure!
  • Study your own home to learn more about how different construction materials are used. Find parts of your home made of glass, plastic, metal, wood, rock and concrete. Why were these materials used in some places and not others? Why are some of the pipes in your home made of metal, while others are plastic? Figure out why the materials' properties make it a good choice for that part of the home.
  • Use this technology investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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