As weight was added to bridges made of uncooked pasta and epoxy glue, wide-eyed high school students stood silent in suspense. Then snap! Bridge after bridge failed, breaking into pieces to the loud groans of teens and their parents.
After 12 teams put their engineering skills to the test, one team triumphed as the winner of Engineering Innovation’s Spaghetti Bridge competition, the grand finale of the four-week, college-level summer course that allows teens to think and problem-solve like engineers.
Using engineering specifications, students put theory into practice and constructed pasta bridges to support as much weight as possible. The winning arch-shaped bridge held 66 pounds, but most importantly, it had a near-perfect design and zero penalties.
“All of the students in the winning group were high-performing students and were extra careful to design and construct the bridge within the given specifications,” said Binod Tiwari, professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Winning team members and aspiring engineers are Henry Lin of Northwood High School in Irvine; Darwin Zhang and Belinda Wang, both of Diamond Bar High School; and Ashley Zeng of Sage Hill School in Newport Beach.
“Our win was the result of putting effort into the details to build a quality bridge,” said Lin, who also received an award as the top student in the course. “I liked the rigor, challenge and fast pace of the program because it gives you a feel for what to expect in college.”
Tiwari, CSUF’s 2017 Outstanding Professor, and Pankaj Bhattarai, lecturer in civil and environmental engineering, taught the Engineering Innovation program, a partnership between Cal State Fullerton and Johns Hopkins University.
This is the 14th summer CSUF has offered Engineering Innovation, in which Southern California Edison donated $20,000 that funded 12 student scholarships. A total of 44 high school students, mostly from Orange County and the region, participated in the program. Among them were 11 females, as well as one student from Montara, in Northern California, and another from Kansas City, Missouri.