Education
Age range: 7-11
Duration: 60 or more mins
2734 views
  • D & T

Spaghetti tower – strengthening structures

Making the tallest structure

The shape of a structure has a significant affect upon its strength and its stiffness. A structure made from squares can be made significantly more rigid and less likely to collapse by adding reinforcement to form triangles. This principle is widely used in civil engineering when designing new bridges and buildings.

In this activity pupils develop both their skills in using a glue gun and demonstrate their understanding of how structures can be reinforced, by making a structure from spaghetti.

In this activity participants begin by predicting how square structure would affect the properties of a building and for any suggestions as to how it could be made stronger. Then working in teams, pupils have 15 minutes to build a structure from spaghetti. This is a competition – the tallest structure wins.

The structure must be free standing – that means nothing else can support it. Each team can only use 12 pieces of spaghetti – they can break some of it into smaller lengths if needed or to reinforce the structure.

Once the fifteen minutes has passed, each team reviews the structures, comparing which is the tallest and identifying how each structure could have been made stronger or taller.

Activity info, teachers’ notes and curriculum links

This activity teaches transferable skills to the construction industry and beyond. This activity could be used in Key Stage 2 as a stand-alone activity, as a focused task to develop skills in the use of the glue gun, or as an introduction to a design and make project, such as the spaghetti bridges.

If the view of the teacher is that their pupils do not have sufficient maturity to use the glue guns, this activity could be carried out using spaghetti and marshmallows – an example of this is included in the additional websites.

Tools/resources required

  • 5 pieces of card per pupil, ideally with holes punch at each end, plus spares. Note: four pieces form a square and the fifth piece should be slightly longer to create a cross-member.
  • 4 metal fasteners per pupil, plus spares
  • 1-2 packets of spaghetti
  • Glue guns (one per team)

Optional

  • Scissors
  • Hole punches (ideally single hole type – see presentation)
  • Baseboards or A3/A4 pieces of cardboard for use as baseboards when using glue guns

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download and are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

Links to stream and download the videos can be found resources section below.

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