Testing the strength of a beam

Testing the strength of a beam

ZIMSEC O Level Combined Science Notes: Experiment: Comparing the strength of cylindrical and square tube beams

Aim:  To compare the strength of cylindrical and square tubes

Materials: thin cardboard, tin can, sand and glue.


  1. Make a cylindrical tube by rolling a piece of cardboard
  2. Stand the cardboard tube vertically and place an empty tin on top end of the tube
  3. Fill the tin with sand slowly until it starts to crumple
  4. Repeat using a square beam whose with is the same as the diameter of the tube

Results and Observations

  • The cylindrical beam holds carries more sand
  • Cylinder beams are stronger because they have fewer points of failure compared to square tube beams


  • Cylindrical tube beams are to be favored when in compression e.g. as building columns
  • This is because of their shape
  • The cylinder’s circular cross section places the column’s material and its outer boundary are at a consistent distance from the center, so the column has no side that is weaker
  • This making it less susceptible to buckling than tube beams or other beams.

To access more topics go to the Combined Science Notes page.