Unit 6: Social Studies Connection

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Buckminster Fuller

Richard Buckminster Fuller also known as Bucky, was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1895. As a young man, he attended Harvard College and the U.S. Naval Academy. When he was 32, he found himself penniless and in debt. His four-year-old daughter died of pneumonia. Fuller was unhappy and felt hopeless.

But Buckminster Fuller did not give in to his unhappiness. He decided at once that he would dedicate himself to making the world a better place. Over the next 56 years of his life, Bucky was true to his word.

Fuller wanted to create a type of shelter that would be cheap and easy-to-build, but strong. He designed such a house in 1927, and named it the Dymaxion House. The house was made of the same materials used to make airplanes, was easy to build. Some people called it the house of the future. But Fuller could not get a bank to pay for the houses.

Fuller's next goal was to build a shelter that was lightweight enough to be delivered by airplane. In 1948, he created the geodesic dome, his most famous invention. Fuller discovered that a sphere or dome made of repeating triangle shapes would be very strong—much stronger than a square or rectangle.

The geodesic dome uses about 30% less energy than most homes. Some of the domes take less than a day to build, and cost about $350. The domes can withstand high winds and extreme high and low temperatures.

Thousands of the geodesic domes, nicknamed “Bucky Ball” were built. One of the best-known domes was the 200 foot-high US Pavilion at the 1967 Expo in Montreal. This dome is still standing. Today, more than 300,000 geodesic domes have been built around the world.

Buckminster Fuller died in 1983, but not before he reached his goal of making a difference in the world. He had faith that technology could be used to solve the world's problems. Bucky loved solving problems. He once said, “When working on a problem, I never think about beauty; I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know that it is wrong.”

Word Wise

debt:
The state of owing money to another person or persons: Three months after borrowing money to buy my bike, I am still in debt.

pneumonia:
A disease of the lungs, caused by a virus or bacteria.

dedicate:
To commit or promise oneself to a cause or an action: Leo is dedicated to helping the poor.

shelter:
Something that provides cover or protection: An igloo makes a good shelter in cold climates.

lightweight:
Weighing very little: Paul's new skateboard is very lightweight.

withstand:
To resist or survive successfully: The new boat was built to withstand heavy rain.

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Activity

Write a short story using each of the Word Wise words. Underline each of the Word Wise words in your story. Draw a picture to illustrate the story.

Data Hunt

Imagine that you are an engineer who tests products to be sure that they work properly and are safe. Test Buckminster Fuller's “Bucky Ball” design. You will need the following materials:

  • plastic straws
  • scissors
  • clay or putty

Cut the plastic straws into 4-inch pieces. Use the pieces to make three different shapes. Fashion the corners of the shapes together with small pieces of clay. One of your shapes should be a triangle, and one should be a rectangle or a square.

Hold each of the shapes in your hand and squeeze them from top to bottom. Which shapes are strongest? Which are weakest? Write the results of your test. Your results should include an answer to the following questions:

  1. Was Buckminster Fuller right?
  2. Are triangles the strongest shape?
  3. Why do you think this is?