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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 3, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 10
Engineers Use Their Noodles

Samji Chung and Kelly Chambers at last year's Spaghetti Bridge Contest.

Using only pasta and glue, freshman engineering students will test their design and construction skills on Sunday, Nov. 9, in the 10th annual Spaghetti Bridge Contest.

Seventeen teams, each consisting of two or three Hopkins students, will compete to see which noodle creation can hold the most weight. The bridges will go on display at 12:30 p.m. in the SDS Room of the Ross Jones Building in the Mattin Center, Homewood campus. The weight competition begins at 2 p.m. Spectators are welcome.

Under the rules of the contest, the bridges can be made of only spaghetti and glue (epoxy or resin). Each free-standing bridge must span two level surfaces that are one meter apart, and 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. To date, the best student bridge has held 64 kilograms (140 lbs.). The winning team receives a $100 prize.

The spaghetti bridge contest is one of the most challenging assignments in an introductory course called What is Engineering?

"For the students, this is a complete engineering problem," said Michael Karweit, a Whiting School research professor who organizes the event. "It begins with lectures on materials and structures, includes the laboratory testing of a material, then culminates with design, construction and testing of a structure using that material — spaghetti. And like many real-life engineering problems, it's open-ended. There's no single right answer."
—Phil Sneiderman


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