Have you ever wondered how skyscrapers can be so tall? Or how people build bridges to span long distances? We use engineering to come up with ways to build tall, long, and sturdy structures.
The first building that was considered a skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, Illinois. It was built in 1885, and stood until 1931. It was considered a skyscraper because it was the first building to use steel and concrete as its foundation and structure. However, people have been building tall towers since 300 BCE! The lighthouse of Alexandria was about 330 feet tall and stood from 280 BCE until 1480 CE. In this activity, you won’t have to create something that big, but if you want to look at how those structures were designed, they might inspire your creation using only marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti.
You will probably find that the most effective towers have wide, sturdy bases, use shorter pieces of pasta, and use triangles and pyramids as support structures. Triangles are a great structure to make, because they are the only shape where you cannot change the angles that the sides make without changing the length of the sides. This makes them very sturdy and able to support things well. Having a wide base gives the tower lots of stability and allows for better weight distribution.
Try adding a challenge for yourself by creating your tower for a specific purpose. Can you make a tower that holds an egg 6 inches off the table? How about a book? How tall can you make a tower using only unbroken pieces of spaghetti? Keep experimenting with different ways to build.
Make sure to clean up when you are done. Compost or throw away the marshmallows and pasta, and clean up your workspace.
This experiment was selected for Science at Home because it teaches NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, which have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines.
Learn more about how this experiment is based in NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.