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Engineering: Make Paper Hold Up Books!

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Can you make paper hold up books? You certainly can! With just 4 pieces of printer paper and a little bit of scotch tape, we held up 27 books! This paper book tower is completely amazing to watch!

Read on to learn how we made paper strong enough to support weight.

We did a paper book tower experiment this week to see which shape and which height of paper would be the strongest. We really did make paper hold up books and my kids were AMAZED at how strong it was!

paper experiments- how many books will it hold

How to Make Paper Hold Up Books:

Watch it in action:

To do this engineering activity, you will need several sheets of regular printer paper and some tape. We used 8 1/2 x 11 size paper from Boise. You’ll also need a whole lot of books.

We folded paper into tubes shaped like squares, circles and triangles and taped them together. My kids wanted to know which of the different shapes would be strongest. You can try your own designs and shapes, too!

Then I decided to add another component and test the height as well. We made a set of the same shapes but half the height. We made two types of circle ones, tightly wrapped and loosely wrapped to see if that made a difference.

Other variations you could try:   Test different paper types and a different weight of paper. Cardstock paper would probably work even better than regular paper. Try it with tissue paper or aluminum foil. Try other adhesives besides tape. Maybe glue would give it more strength?

Paper Experiments- Which can hold up the most weight

We made four of each shape and size and then set a piece of paper on top of it. We tested the short and the tall ones at the same time, and placed books on them one at a time to see which would last the longest.

Engineering Make Paper Hold up Books

I got the most pictures of the tightly rolled paper because that was the one that held up the longest and the most weight.

We started with the triangle shaped papers. These ones held 8 for the short papers and only 4 for the tall triangles. The squares lasted through 5 books with the tall papers and 7 with the short. The circles were definitely the strongest. The widely wrapped circles held 13 for the tall ones and 23 for the short ones. Our tight wrapped papers held 27 for the tall pieces and 24 for the short ones.

how many books can 4 pieces of paper hold

My kids did guess that the tightly wrapped ones would hold the most books, but I think they were completely surprised by exactly how many. They ran out of skinny books so they started getting bigger and heavier books as we went on. As soon as we finished, they asked if we could do it again!

With just paper, tape and scissors you can do this exciting experiment with your kids! Paper experiments

See More Fun Paper Crafts and Experiments:

Easy Engineering Experiment

Easy Engineering Experiment

Blooming Paper Flowers

Blooming Paper Flowers in Water

3-D Paper Shapes

How to Make 3-D Paper Shapes

6 Paper Tricks that Seem like Magic

Paper Tricks that Seem Like Magic

Try Some Origami Projects:

Origami Basketball Math Game

Origami Firefly Paper Circuits

Leap Frog Math for Leap Year

Jumping Frog Origami

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  1. The act of balancing books with paper is simple, but it requires no knowledge to do so. The average weight of a standard, flimsy, white piece of printer paper is less than 1 gram, right around .7 grams. It would make sense that something that light isn’t able to hold the weight of a text book. But, the act of putting the paper into a cylinder will work. The secret to the paper’s new found strength is the geometrical shape known as a cylinder. Cylinders are one of the most structurally sound, and strongest, geometrical shapes. Cylinders are able to be incredibly strong, regardless of the material they’re made out of, because they disperse stress throughout their entire shape. Any paper can work, and even tiny notecards can too. My Odyssey of the Mind group figured all this out the second we were given a problem like this. It’s simple. Triangles can also work, but they are not as strong, which is also dependent on the type of material. Through my research, the physics of paper and balance is very simple, even simple enough for a seventh grader, like me, to figure out. 🙂

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