Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spaghetti Challenge :: Projects By Jen

Today we participated in the Great Spaghetti Challenge, one of the many wonderful Projects By Jen

Task: Use the materials listed below and build a free-standing tower! The project runs from October 10 - November 18. Join the fun!

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To prepare for the project, we thought about the Engineering Design Process. 

 (click to enlarge)
From Tracy Watanabe 

In preparation, we watched some building videos on BrainPop. 

Mrs. Yollis put everyone into small groups, ideas were discussed, and  a plan was made. 

Finally, the materials were passed out, and the creativity began! 

Students were given 18 minutes to build a free-standing tower with a marshmallow on the top. The enemy to all...GRAVITY! 

Time was ticking away...

Several started with a solid foundation

Everyone chipped in! 

After 18 minutes, only one tower was free-standing! Behold, the winning structure and team!

Way to go! The tower measured 44 cm! 

One of the members on the winning team used observational learning to modify and create a winning structure. Preston noticed that everyone was making their towers quite tall, but none of them were staying upright, and that was without the marshmallow! So, he persuaded his team to make a shorter, more stable tower. It worked!  

After processing the learning, Mrs. Yollis gave every team an additional five minutes to modify and improve their tower...just for fun.  Almost everyone was able build a free-standing structure. Meter sticks were brought out and the height was measured

This one measures 38 cm! 

 Here's a second try that measured 46 cm. 

 Will it stand? Will gravity win? 

This one measures 38 cm. 

Sadly, this one collapsed

This one measures approximately 15 cm. 

Plus, our little 3 cm tower

Preston also used weight to counter balance the tower. 

In the afternoon, we held a Google HangOut with Mrs. Watanabe and some teachers from Ventura County Office of Schools. The students talked about the process of designing a tower. Many of the teachers had the same results as the students. The teachers asked the students how they resolved problems. How did you resolve some of the problems in your group? 

Photo collage by Mrs. Watanabe

What was your favorite part of the design process?

How would you do this task differently?


  1. Dear Mrs. Yollis and Class,

    It was such a joy to debrief with all of you on the design process, learning that your students had similar experiences as the teachers involved in challenge. Several teachers shared that if they were to rebuild the structure, they would not sacrifice structural integrity for height. Only a few groups were able to build a sturdy structure within the limits of time and resources.

    Something I noticed was the groups who spent more time testing the materials, such as the spaghetti, prior to starting the challenge, were more prepared to understand the limits of the supplies, which aided in their design. For example, some would bend the spaghetti to test how pliable it was, in order to see how far it would bend before breaking. They would test one at a time, two at a time, three, four, etc. to see how the number changed the strength. They then used this information to help them plan their design.

    Did any of your students test the resources, such as the pliability of the spaghetti, prior to the challenge? If so, how did it inform their design process? If not, how might it change their planning if they tried the challenge again?

    Kind regards,
    Mrs. Watanabe

  2. Dear Mrs.Yollis
    Did you enjoy doing the spaghetti challenge?If I was in Mrs.Yollis's class I would enjoy it!

  3. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    18...17...16...15...14... The clock is ticking down. The pressure, your adrenaline is pumping, and... it falls... down... to the ground! "5 minutes!" Everyone is rushing to get it done, if it falls down, keep on going, even make it a 2 centimeter tower. But the last minute is torture. Knowing that you have only 60 seconds left. As soon as you can say "Marshmallow", it is 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...0 Everyone is looking at their projects. Either proud, or sad.

    The spaghetti challenge! What a great! I loved the spaghetti challenge! One thing I can say about this project is it is unique.
    Who would ever think of 20 pieces of spaghetti, a meter of string and tape, and a marshmallow? It's amazing!

    What was the hardest thing to do for you in the challenge?


    1. @ Elie

      The hardest thing for me was getting the 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 meter of string, and 1 meter of tape to stabilize it. It was finally coming together when suddenly... plop. "NO" we all shouted! Even though we failed, we still tried. It was really enjoyable. I can't wait to see what awaits us.

      What do you think the next project we're doing is?

      Your friend,
      Dylan B.

  4. @ Mrs. Yollis,

    That spaghetti challenge was very fun for me!

    I was very happy when I won but I was grateful for everyone else because they tried their hardest and they did their best. I am glad that everyone finished when you gave us the extra five minutes.

    You looked very proud of everyone because they tried their best. I also remember the tools you gave us, spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow for the top.

    I hope you liked us working as a team and cooperating with each other.

    What did you like about the spaghetti challenge?
    Have you ever tried the spaghetti challenge before?


  5. Michael (Allie's Dad)November 29, 2016 at 8:03 PM

    @ Allie,

    I have never done a spaghetti challenge but it sounds very interesting. What I really like about it is that it seems to have brought out a cooperative and supportive spirit. Would you be interested in demonstrating a spaghetti challenge for our family?


    Your Dad

  6. Laura (Dylan B.'s Grandma)December 1, 2016 at 4:33 PM

    Dear Mrs. Yollis,
    The spaghetti challenge sounds like it was such a fun and creative project for your class. I wish we had done such wonderful things in the classes I took when I was in school a long time ago!


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