Engineering the Eiffel Tower

Is your 8—12 year old fascinated with the Eiffel Tower?  My granddaughter is.  She has Eiffel Tower t-shirts, an Eiffel Tower lamp, and someday aspires to visit Paris, see the Eiffel Tower, and eat macaroons.  This text does not address macaroons, but Janet Slingerland does provide quite a bit of interesting information about The Iron Lady (I didn’t know it was called that), Gustave Eiffel, and how the landmark was engineered.

The World’s Fair of 1889 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution prompted a competition to design a tower to represent French culture.  The more than 100 entries yielded two main competitors, Gustave Eiffel with his iron vision, and the classic stone structure of Jules Bordais.  Guess who won?

There are so many features of the tower that I never knew existed (and I’ve been there!).  The tower was planned in the 1880’s to be the tallest structure at that time. The triangular shape was designed to reduce the effect of wind.  A team of 50 engineers and designers worked on the plans for the tower for three years!  It needed to be easy to dismantle, as it was supposed to be taken down after 20 years!

But it is still here today.  How did that happen? Saving the tower highlights more of Eiffel’s genius.  He thought that if it proved useful to science, he might be able to extend the tower’s life.  He created a laboratory on the tower to measure air pressure and wind.  He observed how falling objects interacted with the wind as they fell.  He also built a wind tunnel at the base of the tower, carried out more than 5000 experiments there, and wrote a book about it in 1913 (The Resistance of Air and Aviation).  Utilizing the tower’s height for telegraph wireless communication proved useful for the military, keeping the tower open for another 70 years.  You must read the book to find out more!

You will find this book, part of the BUILDING BY DESIGN series from Abdo Publishing at their website in library binding, and from Amazon in paperback and library binding.  So grab a macaroon and have a good read!

Slingerland, Janet.  Engineering by the Eiffel Tower.  Abdo Publishing, 2018.

ISBN-10: 1641852534; ISBN-13: 978-1641852531


K-ESS3-2 Earth and Human Activity

Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.

1-PS4-4 Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

2-PS1-2 Matter and Its Interactions

Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.

3-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity

Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard.

3-5-ETS1-1 Engineering Design

Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

3-5-ETS1-2 Engineering Design

Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.