August 27, 2014

Engineering with Spaghetti

On the 5th day of school we did our first Engineering Challenge:

Build a structure, out of only spaghetti and tape, that supports the weight of a large marshmallow.

The students were provided with 20 pieces of spaghetti and 3 feet of masking tape. They worked in groups of 4 and had 20 minutes to complete the challenge ~

* Tallest free-standing tower wins
* Structure may not be taped to anything or leaning against anything (table, wall, chair, etc...)
* Marshmallow must be loose, no spaghetti spears
* Height is measured to the top of the marshmallow, not the top of the structure

We took a break halfway through the challenge (10 minutes) to tour the work of other groups. Each group visited the other workstations and discussed what they saw. No touching! Are there any ideas you could use in your own structure?

At the end, 3 out of 5 groups had completed structures - 2 collapsed with the weight of the marshmallow. Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 groups had forgotten to leave a place for the marshmallow to sit. The winning structure is below. It is 28.5 cm tall. Hooray!

In our debrief afterward, the most common comment was that next time they won't wait until the last minute to add their marshmallow (Good Call!). The winning group stated that it took them 6 tries and lots of adjustment to get their structure to stand with the marshmallow because it kept falling over.

Usually we only do a spaghetti challenge once, but this year I want to try something new. We will complete this challenge at least 3 more times this year. With several other Engineering Challenges in between. I'm excited to see how their structures improve as they have more experiences.

Many thanks to Shayla Rexrode (@ShaylaRexrodeDE) at Discovery Ed for her tips on improving my use of this challenge.

~ Amanda


  1. I loved this post. We are doing this activity tomorrow and this was such a helpful explanation of how it could work. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Jessica -
      I'm so glad it was helpful and that you are doing engineering tasks in your classroom. Hope it went well! Would love to hear how it went!