Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Spaghetti Challenge

This morning I challenged E and G to see if they could build the highest tower possible out of dried spaghetti and marshmallows (actually it was a battle as to whether they could build a tower before E ate all the marshmallows).  The spaghetti provides the framework and support for the structure and the marshmallows are the connectors.  The important thing to realise is that the marshmallows grip onto the pieces of spaghetti to hold the joints in place. The strength of a joint is dependent on how well the marshmallow can hold the spaghetti strands without them slipping. If there is a heavy load (weight) on
the joint it may cause the marshmallow to change shape until the joint fails -
this is most likely to happen where the load is the greatest, i.e. at the bottom of the tower. They quickly found they couldn't just go up so we googled towers and G quickly saw the need for triangles.  You can build very large structures from squares and cubes, but they will be weak and will usually fall down quite easily. If they tried to make a structure out of triangles and pyramids, it will be strong but you will use a lot of materials before the tower gets very tall! The best way to build a tall tower is to use both triangles and squares that way you can build big structures that are less wobbly.  A diagonal piece of spaghetti put across a square turns a square into two triangles and makes it more rigid. G found it quite hard not to break the spaghetti when pushing it into a marshmallow and quickly came up with the solution to use a marshmallow half-way along the piece (although this had the disadvantage of weight thus meaning upwards hard to build). The girls had a fun hour - although the towers never got very high. Eventually, sticky, we decided to call it a day as the marshmallows where no longer much good as connectors due all the holes in them!

This was great for team work, problem solving and naming shapes.

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