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Exploring Bridge Beams with Spaghetti

Spaghetti Noodle Bridge Beams / Materials Science Family Science Activity

How do engineers ensure that bridges and other structures can support weight properly so that they don't collapse? In this week's materials science-themed family science activity, families can use uncooked spaghetti noodles to explore the forces that come into play when weight is applied to a beam. What happens when the spaghetti bends in response to weight? If the noodles break, where do they break? Was the breakage the result of compression or tension? Does using more pieces of spaghetti make the beam stronger? Why or why not?

An engineer would never build a real bridge from spaghetti! But a science activity like this one lets kids better understand how the properties of a building material will determine how it works in certain situations. There are many considerations that an engineer has to take into account when designing any kind of weight-bearing structure, but the properties of the materials that might be used for the job are important!

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