Lesson: Pressure and Temperature in a Dome

Lesson: Pressure and Temperature in a Dome
Jim Bruner | Mezzacello Building a Biodome over ice

For a quick Lesson: Pressure and Temperature in a Dome, I use any system that allows students to build a geodesic structure over a curved volume. Then they are required to stabilize the dome structure on a platform. The bowl is then sprayed with pam, filled with water and frozen.

The key objectives here are to take the frozen dome shape and using just notes and experience, refashion that same dome over the ice before the ice melts! They are allowed to control for some variables, but not any form of refrigeration. The notes and experience they had building the dome will be critical!


  • A system for creating geodesic shapes:
    • Magnetic rods and steel ball systems like this: NeoBuilder
    • Toothpicks and hot glue
    • Paper triangles and paste
    • Tinkertoys
  • A bowl with a sufficient curve that can be covered by a geodesic shape
  • A freezer for freezing domes of ice
  • A tray for keeping melting ice manageable
  • Towels or paper towels
  • A notebook
  • Pens and pencils


  1. Allow plenty of time for kids to explore with the magnetic assembly system, toothpicks or construction paper triangles. They will need a mental map to recreate. Failure is a valuable requirement here.
  2. Take this time to familiarize your students with geodesics and create teams that can work well together.
    1. Panic will be a real factor here as will frustration. Help students manage their teamwork and emotions.
    2. It helps to have an example ready that they can see so they know there is a path to success.
    3. An alternative solution would be to provide multiple paper cutouts of geodesic shapes that kids can test to what covers best.
  3. Once they have their geodesic dome in place, ask students to document their design. Remind them that they must be able to recreate this after the ice has set up and finish before the ice melts.
  4. Either fill the bowl with ice or pre-freeze several bowls with the exact shape for use in the competition.
  5. Get everything ready and go! Most will fail, but if you get this to the place where iteration is possible, you will see confidence and teamwork expand exponentially.
  6. Find a way to safely recycle the water.
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