Program 27: Pasta Towers

It’s never a bad idea to revisit a fun program in a new way, and that’s just what we did with Engineering. When the G3 scientists last addressed that topic, our project was designing bridges using only cardboard sheets and string. This time, our scientists were challenged to build pasta towers using nothing but marshmallows!

As always, we started our program with a brief slide presentation to talk about the concept of Structural Engineering. What is a structural engineer? Well, according to structural engineering is defined as:

—…a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads.


Structural engineers can design everything from city skyscrapers to bridges to roller coasters! We looked at pictures of some of these structures to see what shapes could be found in the structure designs – shapes that could help our scientists in designing their own pasta towers. The most commonly used shape – the one that consistently provides some of the best support for a structure – is the triangle. As an example, take a look at the images below and see if you can spot all of the triangles used in the structure designs.


I also shared a few fun videos with everyone. One of the videos we watched showed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse of 1940. Another showed the largest house of cards I’ve ever seen being triumphantly destroyed by its builder. The one below was definitely a favorite during the programs – showing a giant domino tower from construction to demolition to clean-up 🙂



Our G3 scientists were challenged to building the tallest tower possible using only:
  • 75 strands of uncooked spaghetti (regular, not thin)
  • Mini-marshmallows for the joints (as many as needed)

They also had to be able to balance a large marshmallow from the top of their structure. There was scrap paper and pens available for anyone who wanted to sketch a design before construction began. There were also rulers available at each table for anyone who wanted to precisely measure pieces of pasta for their structures. Most scientists dove directly into construction and tested and revised designs as their construction progressed. And few to none used the ruler to measure pasta pieces as they broke them up for their construction – there was a lot of on-the-fly tailoring of pasta lengths. Thus, we had a lot of varied, highly creative structures that emerged in both program tracks. The tallest tower was created in Track A at 36+ inches!

All scientists were given cardboard sheets to transport their creations safely home. [Note: The pasta structures actually become stronger over time. As the moisture evaporates from the marshmallows, the marshmallow joints dry and become more solid (like cement!).] Check out the sample slide show of project images below created in Animoto.

See you in December for the next G3 meetings!


Categories: Engineering, Structures | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Program 27: Pasta Towers

  1. Looks like the Animoto sample slide show of project images is marked as Private on YouTube 😦 I’d love to see what the kids designed!

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