It may seem like an unusual material, but students are learning building and budgeting with spaghetti bridges.
While spaghetti is not a new material for student building materials, it is unusual to have it used among students as young as sixth grade. Nonetheless, in Bullitt County’s Discover School, middle school students are encouraged to excel in math and science with hands on learning, including the project that has them build a 50 centimeter bridge out of spaghetti and glue, with no other materials. The students have designed the bridges in teams, planning not only the design, but the cost. Teams create budgets to buy boxes of spaghetti with fake money. As a building material, each strand of spaghetti is worth approximately $1000 each in the fake currency.
The goal of the program is to build the strongest bridge using the least materials. This mirrors a real life project shown in the Ohio River Bridges Project.
Science teacher Devin Franklin sees the use of spaghetti as a way for students to not only learn engineering concepts but also account for the materials. Students have attached other lessons to the project, including business development and fair trade practices. “We were looking for a way to account for the resources they’re using, so we attached a price tag to each item to make them think about the cost of building a bridge, so they’re not just using excessive amounts of glue,” Franklin said. “The kids started to haggle and barter and buy resources to sell to other groups at inflated costs. They immediately made it a business.”
As an example, students Daniel Davis and Drew Hadley have developed a strategy for spending. They have spent about $1 billion on supplies, and have a plan to sell the extras to teams that don’t plan for adequate resources. “If they don’t buy our spaghetti, then we’ll just have the strongest bridge,” Daniel said.