Spaghetti Towers And Spaghetti Earthquakes - What Are They, And Where Can I Find Out More About Them?

Spaghetti towers are scale model towers (usually several feet tall) made entirely out of dry spaghetti and marshmallows (usually the "mini" size)—either as part of an organized competition—or else as a fun thing for kids to do on a rainy day. Just like building spaghetti bridges, building the towers can be a fun learning experience. One thing about the towers, though, is that they are easier for kids of (practically) all ages to successfully build than the bridges are.

With younger kids, the object is often simply to build a tower as tall as possible that won’t fall over. As they get older and are looking for more challenge, they can try building towers that will hold the most weight without collapse. And last but not least, they can try building (and testing) towers to survive a spaghetti earthquake of ten seconds or longer.

Spaghetti earthquakes are induced by using a specially made “shake table” that simulates an actual seismic event on a scale relative to the tower size. The table top typically rests on a series of springs that restrain it somewhat, but still allow movement in all 6 directions (back-and-forth, side-to-side, and up-and-down). Then some kind of motorized vibrating device is used to “shake” the table in rapid cyclical motions.

If you are interested in organizing any of these kinds of activities, following are some helpful online resources to help get you started.

If your goal is to build an award winning tower of spaghetti (perhaps one that can survive the great spaghetti earthquake), you too can find some useful information at some of the following links.

Spaghetti Tower Fun For Kids

Click here for a fairly simple description (with some helpful pictures) of how to get younger kids started building towers from spaghetti. This can be made into a competition at school. Or it can simply be something to do at home just for fun on a “rainy day.”

Spaghetti Tower Lesson Plan

Here is an excellent lesson plan from the University of Colorado for conducting a team-based classroom competition to build the spaghetti tower supporting the greatest load. This plan is suitable for either middle school or high school grade levels.

"Spaghetti Earthquake" Contests

Paul Elliot’s “Spaghetti Earthquake Webquest” is perhaps the premier resource on spaghetti earthquake competitions. He describes a complete spaghetti tower-building contest program, in which teams of three to five kids each compete to build the best tower and test them on shake tables. He also provides lots of links to information on seismic design. And his “Notes to Teachers” page provides information on how to make a "shake table" for your contest, and shows pictures of some award winning tower designs.

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