Science North is an agency of the Government of Ontario
Dome Sweet Dome Grade 3 and Grade 5
Description Geodesic domes are made of interconnected triangles that approximate the
shape of a sphere. This project shows you how to build a geodesic dome
using rolled-up newspapers and tape. This activity lends itself well to a
Science Olympics-style competition.
Duration 120 minutes
Group Arrangement 5-6 students
Science and Technology Curriculum Expectations Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Strong and Stable
Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Forces Acting on
Structures and Mechanisms.
Cross Curricular Links Language- Oral Communication
Magazines (for testing the strength of the domes)
Background Science Olympics are a great way to engage your students in hands-on science. They are made up of a series of
interactive, inquiry-based activities that are used as a competition between classrooms or groups within the
same classroom. The element of competition can be a great motivator to get students involved, and this
particular activity can be adapted to your students skill levels.
Introduction A geodesic dome is a structure made of interconnected struts that approximate the shape of a sphere (or
hemisphere). The struts are joined together in triangles, with the vertices of the triangles designed to fall
approximately on the sphere. The struts form a rigid network that transmits stress forces throughout the
structure. The sides of the triangles form great circles (geodesics) over the surface of the sphere.
Geodesic domes have some very interesting properties. Since the structure approximates a sphere, geodesic
domes have very high surface-to-volume ratios. In fact, geodesic domes enclose more volume per unit weight
than any other man-made structure made from linear elements. They are also the only known man-made
structure that increases in strength as the size of the structure is increased.
Activities Stack three flat sheets of newspaper together. Starting in one corner, roll the sheets up together as tightly as you
can to form a tube. When you reach the other corner, tape the tube to keep it from unrolling. Repeat until you
have 65 tubes.
Now cut down the tubes to make 35 "longs" and 30 "shorts."
Longs: Cut off both ends of a tube until it is 71 centimeters long. Use this tube as a model to create 34 more
longs. Be sure to mark all the longs clearly in some way, such as with colored marker at each end, so you can
tell them apart from the shorts. Decorate the tubes if you like.
Shorts: Cut off both ends of another tube until it is 66 cm long. Use this tube as a model to create 29 more
shorts. Decorate the tubes if you like.
First, tape 10 longs together to make the base of the dome.
Tape a long and a short to each joint. Arrange them so that there are two longs next to each other, followed by
two shorts, and so on, as shown below.
Tape the tops of two adjacent shorts together to make a triangle. Tape the next two longs together, and so on all
the way around.
Connect the tops of these new triangles with a row of shorts. The dome will start curving inward.
At each joint where two shorts and two longs come together tape another short sticking straight up. Connect
this short to the joints on either side with longs, forming new triangles.
Connect the tops of these new triangles with a row of longs.
Finally, add the last five shorts so that they meet at a single point in the center of the dome. You might need to
stand inside the dome to tape them together.
Once the teams have finished building their domes, you can begin your competition with the following
1. How much does the dome weigh?
2. How strong is it? To test your dome's strength, see how many magazines you can load on top. Adult
supervision is recommended for this step. Add magazines gradually. Observe the dome carefully for
signs of impending failure.
3. What was the strength-to-weight ratio of the dome?
4. Did the results surprise you? Why or why not?
5. What was the hardest part about creating the dome?