Hands-on Activity: Spaghetti Bridge

Contributed by: K-12 Outreach Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Copyright © 2005 Brown River Middle School

spaghetti bridgeWho do you think creates the human-made structures in the U.S.? Who makes sure they are safe for us to use? It is civil engineers who design and create structures such as buildings, dams, highways, skyscrapers and bridges. You can explore the field of engineering by making a spaghetti bridge. You can then test it by applying weights to see when they break. Try it out:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks, 1 package
  • Various weights from 5 to 50 pounds
  • Large tub (or newspapers to spread out), to make clean-up easier
  • 2 tables (place 1 foot apart)
  • Metal strip (to serve as the road)
  • Chain (to hold the weights)

Procedure

  1. Check out “building materials,” including the metal strip “road,” chain and weights that will be used for testing.
  2. Draw your bridge designs on paper. Make sure that bridges are long enough to span across a specified distance between two tables.
  3. Create the bridge using hot glue to hold it together.
  4. When the bridges are complete, test their strength. Place a bridge so it spans the gap between two tables. Place a tub or spread out newspapers under the bridge to catch falling debris and make cleanup easier.
  5. Put the strip of metal on the bridge (as the road). Then apply weights on the chain, starting with 5 pounds and working up to 50 pounds, or until the bridge breaks.
  6. Conclude with a class discussion to compare results and draw conclusions. Use the Investigating Questions to explore your findings.

Investigating Questions

  • What happened when you added more weights? What does the bridge look like?
  • Does adding more height to the bridge make it stronger?
  • What are some ways to improve your design?

Copyright © 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Supporting Program, K-12 Outreach Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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