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Arches - how strong are they?Featured science projectScience project video


This science fair project aims to investigate the strength of an arch. The experiment is carried out using plywoodof different lengths bent into an arch and fixed to a test stand.


A larger arch is able to withstand a heavier load.

Scientific Terms

Tensile stress, compressive stress, arch



Arches are semicircle structures supported at both ends. Arch structures are used in the construction of entrances, windows and bridges.

The building of an arch will normally start with a wooden frame that will support the underside of the arch. Scaffolding is normally used together with the wooden frame for taller arches. The main component of the arch will be the keystone which is located in the middle and at the highest point of the arch  An arch which is not build properly will collapse when the frame is being removed.

Most materials that are used in the construction of arches are weak under tensile stress but they are strong in withstanding compressive stress. Such materials are  concrete, stone, iron and wood. The design of an arch is such that it is able to minimize  tensile stress . and withstand as much compressive stress as possible. 

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Time required:
1 day for preparation 1 day for science fair project
Material availability:
May be obtained from a hardware store
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Sawing should be performed by an adult wearing proper safety gear.