The Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 4, 2002
November 4, 2002
VOL. 32, NO. 10


Engineers Use Their Noodles

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Using only pasta and glue, freshman engineering students will test their design and construction skills on Saturday, Nov. 9, in the annual Spaghetti Bridge Contest. Seventeen teams, each consisting of two or three Johns Hopkins students, will compete to see which noodle creation can hold the most weight. To date, the best student bridge has held 64 kilograms (140 lbs.).

The bridges will go on display at 1:30 p.m. in the Glass Pavilion at Homewood. The weight competition begins at 3 p.m. Spectators are welcome.

An entry in last year's Spaghetti Bridge Contest before weights tested its strength.

For many years, the spaghetti bridge competitions took place at the Maryland Science Center in the Inner Harbor. But last year the event moved to the Homewood campus. "It's nice to bring it here to Homewood so that other students can see what's going on in Engineering," said Michael Karweit, a Whiting School research professor who organizes the event.

Karweit teaches an introductory undergraduate course called What Is Engineering? and the spaghetti bridge contest is actually one of its most challenging assignments. "This is a complete engineering problem, from design to construction--the whole ball of wax," Karweit said. "And in a sense, it's open-ended. There's no single right answer."

Under the rules of the contest, the bridges can be made only of spaghetti and glue (epoxy or resin). Each free-standing bridge must span two level surfaces that are a meter apart. Each bridge must include a decking of spaghetti wide enough to allow a "car," represented by a small block of wood, to pass over it.

During the judging, increments of weight are gradually added to a platform suspended from the middle of each bridge until the structure snaps. Its score is the greatest amount of weight the bridge carried before the collapse. The winning team receives a $100 prize.