Ultimate Physics Project: Spaghetti Bridge

18 May
Spaghetti Bridge

The Ancient One - Our Spaghetti Bridge

I blogged a bit about this project last year in 2009 so I don’t expect you to remember what I wrote then, but basically I introduced the project and said that my partner and I would be researching and making blueprints. Knowing myself, I probably wrote about how nervous and unsure I was too.

Just about a week ago, the final test of the spaghetti bridges came. It was took place on May 13th around noon time.

Two days before the final test, I just found out that it was due so my partner and I were scrambling around to find time to finish it. We ended up coming during the collaboration period from 7:45 am to 9:20 am to work on it and then again at lunch to finish it up. With the help of another savy physics-minded friend, we managed to not only finish on-time, but with a well-supported, triangular-ridden bridge.

Now, my partner and I had heard horror stories from the previous blocks of how the spaghetti bridges collapsed instantly after the 1000 gram weight was hooked onto the center wooden piece. What grade did they get? A C. A flat-out C.

Opponent's Spaghetti Bridge

The Opposing Spaghetti Bridge

Not that I would complain about getting a C, but my partner and I worked way too hard to get a C. At the most, however, I was hoping for a B. A B I could live with.

To get an A, our bridge, which we deemed “The Ancient One” due to the cobwebs of stringy hot glue draping all over the noodle beams, would have to last at least five minutes with the 1000 gram weight. Looking at our bridge it seemed that ole Ancient One wouldn’t make it.

We weren’t too daunted though. Nervous, but we figured that our Physics teacher wouldn’t really give us a C if it failed. Not a C that was 20% of this quarter that would take my high A down to a B, which would in turn bring my semester grade down to a B. Nah, she wouldn’t do that …

…or would she?

Our Spaghetti Bridge

Well, Lady Luck finally left our side when we placed our bridge on the two beams 3 feet above a table. When I placed the bridge on the beams,

another group whose bridge was not the required two meters in length moved the stationary beams closer to accommodate their bridge. With a swift crack, I saw a piece of Old Ancient One fall to the table.

A beam had snapped and the weight hadn’t even been put on.

The beam that snapped was the one in the picture above that made up the side triangle.

I was mad. How could they be so careless? Now, we would surely fail. It was a wimpy bridge to begin with and now it was a handicapped wimpy bridge. Great.

Luckily my teacher saw the short bridge and decided that it would be tested separately, so it was just Ancient One against a third group’s towering roller coaster-looking bridge.

Spaghetti Bridge Competition

Another bridge in class, got an "A"

When my teacher finally let us put on the weight, I held my breath as I carefully let go of the 1000 gram weight that dangled from the center.

One second…two seconds…three seconds…four seconds….five seconds… No cracking, jolting, crashing, or creaking. So far so good.

Surprisingly, a minute passed without too much twisting or tension showing. This was basically because our friend had told us to add supports to the side. Good thing we did or Ancient One would have snapped instantly. As our friend put it, “You had a good basic plan. I’m just adding some support systems to keep your bridge up.”

Well, in the end, the Old Ancient One not only held for the five minutes holding 1000 grams, but it stayed up for 18 minutes holding 1,400 grams. We got the A and a rousing applause from our classmates. Our bridge broke a minute and 200 grams before the roller coaster-looking bridge, but we were happy and pleased. Honestly, what more could we ask for?

Putting Weights on Spaghetti Bridge

The Ancient One receives weights

Old Ancient One Aspects:

– regular semolina spaghetti, uncooked for beams

– lasagna as the roadbed

– hot glue, for adhering spaghetti beams together

– 2 meters in length

– about 30 inches high

– 2-3 inches wide

– basic structure: truss with lots and lots of triangles

End of The Ancient One

The Ancient One finally collaspes after 1400 grams at 18 minutes

I guess this just goes to show that my adventures with food go beyond the kitchen. It was definitely a fun experience. Who knew spaghetti could be so strong?

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One Response to “Ultimate Physics Project: Spaghetti Bridge”

  1. Miggs May 20, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    That was awesome!! You completely drew me in and had me feeling all the tension in the room… @___@ That must have been crazy stressful.

    Glad you guys snagged an A! Congrats! :)

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