Pasta power: Event challenges teams to aim higher with spaghetti, marshmallow structures

Johns Hopkins hosts Tower of Power competition as part of National Engineers Week

Three middle schoolers kneel beside their spaghetti structure which resembles a geodesic dome

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Ryleigh Poole and her teammates came into Tuesday evening's "Tower of Power" competition extremely well prepared.

"We practiced our design a lot ahead of time," said the eighth-grader from the Waldorf School of Baltimore, a Baltimore City independent K-8 school. "Our strategy was to use hexagons as a base and build the tower up as quickly as possible."

Their approach worked. Poole and teammates Ashley Passmore, a sixth-grader, and Madeline Marsak, a seventh-grader, took home the top prize in this year's competition, held in Johns Hopkins University's Glass Pavilion as part of National Engineers Week.

Hosted by Theta Tau, a coed engineering fraternity, and sponsored this year by Bloomberg LP, the annual event challenges teams of Johns Hopkins undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni, as well as students representing several area middle schools, to engineer the tallest possible towers from boxes of uncooked spaghetti and bags of marshmallows.

Team Waldorf's tower measured 4 feet, 6.5 inches tall. Poole, Passmore, and Marsak celebrated their victory by gleefully stomping on it.

The structure built by undergraduates Peiyong Zhang, Connie He, and Franco Estores measured 4 feet, 3-inches and earned them second place in the contest.

"Our approach was very stable up to a certain point, and then it wasn't," said Estores, a political science major. "We tried to buttress it, but we ran out of time."

Third place went to Isabel McFarland and Chelsea Shumate, both seventh-graders at Roland Park Country School, an all-girls independent K-12 school in North Baltimore.

"We entered because our science teacher loves this kind of thing where we work as teams together to accomplish a task," said McFarland. "We liked it, too!"

Members of the top three teams not only enjoyed a sense of triumph and a few moments of glory, but also received Chipotle and Amazon gift cards.