Spaghetti skyscrapers

How do you build a tower using marshmallows and spaghetti noodles?

First, you have to have to have a design plan.

“I want the tallest structure that can support the weight,” said Kyle Hibbs, an engineer from Ackerman Estvold who was teaching the class on Exploring Engineering for Minot State University’s College for Kids program. “Remember, the base has to be 4 inches by 4 inches wide.”

“Can it be bigger than 4 inches?” asked one of the students.

“No,” replied Hibbs, who, who said he put a limit on the size of specifications because spaghetti noodles are only so long and there were a limited number of them for the kids to work with.

The kids could, however, build the tower as high as they wanted, provided the tower was able to support the weight of a cupful of water.

The elementary age students poked spaghetti noodles into marshmallows and tried out which designs worked the best.

Several of the kids have taken multiple College for Kids classes this summer, but Tevon Smith said the best part of the engineering exploration class was getting to build things. His classmate, Kyleigh Mennem, popped a marshmallow into her mouth and said “eating” was the best part.

McKenna Larson, the business assistant for Ackerman Estvold who coordinates education programs for the Minot engineering firm, said several engineers from the firm taught different lessons.

During the two-day class, kids also made potato arches and floating vessels using straws, paper cups, saran wrap and random utensils and did mapping using play dough.

“We just try and make it 100 percent hands-on,” said Larson.

Though the engineering class was one of the more educational of the College for Kids classes, the instructors made it fun by using common household items for the experiments.

“I’m sure they could go into their mom’s kitchen and do this at home,” said Larson.

The engineering instructors were also trying to show the kids that engineering is a possible future career for girls as well as boys. A couple of the instructors were female engineers. Larson said that the enrollment in the classes have been about half girls and half boys. Those ratios tend to change as kids get older, though. Larson said there are fewer girls in comparison to boys in educational programs Ackerman Estvold is involved with at the high school level. Larson said it’s also important to encourage girls to keep their interest in science, math and technology as they enter their teenage years.

Exploring Engineering was one of several College for Kids classes that have been offered at Minot State in June and July. There have been two two-day sessions of the engineering class.