Leaning Tower of Pasta
Students will learn about the effects of forces that act on and within different structural forms. They will investigate how different structural forms support or withstand loads by designing, building, and testing structures.
Associated Curriculum Topic
Form and Function
Each group needs:
- 20 unbroken pieces of uncooked, long pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or fettuccini
- 30 small marshmallows
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Weights or small books
Architects and Engineers have a very important role in society. They are responsible for designing and supervising the construction of all the buildings and structures that we take for granted everyday. In this activity, students will have the opportunity to become an engineer while they attempt to construct a tower out of pasta and marshmallows. Students will quickly understand the importance of having an action plan in order to maintain the stability and safety of the structure.
The object of this activity is to build a tower as high AND as strong as you can using only a limited supply of spaghetti and marshmallows. There are no step-by-step instructions for this project, only the constraints of limited resources! Students can do whatever they want with the materials to try to build a structure as tall, stable and strong as possible. Let the student teams' imagination, creativity and ingenuity run wild.
Hold a competition and give points for how tall the structure is as well as how much weight it can hold. A good way to comparatively measure the effectiveness of each structure is by having students take the load the structure can support and divide it by the weight of the structure. The higher this number, the more effective the structure. For example, 30g (maximum weight structure could hold) divided by 10g (weight of structure alone) = 3.
Before testing the structures, have students measure and record the height and weight of their structure.
How much weight does the structure support? Five grams? 10 grams? 20 grams? 30 grams? Have students record their structure's maximum weight held on the worksheet, and calculate the load to weight ratio for comparison purposes.
Image from: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/187673509445359126/
- What shapes would be best to incorporate into your structure?
- How might you re-enforce your structure to ensure stability and safety?
Adapted from Teach Engineering