How strong is spaghetti?  Challenge kids to invent a way to find out!  This STEM challenge is a lot of fun, and you won’t need much in the way of materials!

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

Here are the materials we used:

  • 1 package of spaghetti
  • 2 sheets of styrofoam – purchased at Hobby Lobby
  • Books
  • Wooden blocks

We started our project by investigating how much weight spaghetti can hold when it’s vertical.  We quickly discovered that spaghetti is not very strong!  It bends very easily, and breaks easily.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

I asked the boys if they thought multiple pieces of spaghetti could hold more weight, and possibly even hold up a book.  We tried sticking about 20 pieces of spaghetti into the styrofoam disk.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

We decided to see if the spaghetti could hold up our large history book, and of course it could not…

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

We tried again with our test, and used LOTS of spaghetti.  I can’t remember how many pieces this was, but I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 200.  One of the challenges of balancing weight on top of spaghetti is that it bends and sways very easily!  We had good success putting another piece of styrofoam on top of the spaghetti, and then adding weight on top of that.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

We were able to get 6 board books on top of the spaghetti!  Not a ton of weight, but hey – it’s spaghetti!

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

Then we devised a second test to investigate the strength of spaghetti when it is lying down horizontal.  Aidan built a small bridge out of blocks and laid the spaghetti across the bridge.  We were able to pull the spaghetti out of the styrofoam and use the same pieces.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

Aidan put blocks on top of the spaghetti on each side to hold it in place.  Then he started adding weight in the middle.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

Surprisingly, the spaghetti held a lot of weight!  I figured that it would be stronger this way than standing up vertically, but it was stronger than I thought it would be.

As Aidan added more weight to the center, he had to add more weight to the sides to keep the spaghetti in place.

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

What can we learn about the strength of materials from spaghetti?

This article from Scientific American explains what engineers are looking for when choosing the materials to design a bridge, and it has a neat experiment to test tension and compression in a bridge made out of spaghetti.  This is probably best for kids age 13+, but parents and teachers can also summarize the information for youngest students.  It’s not difficult to read, and I definitely learned something!

Challenge kids to invent their own way to test the strength of spaghetti!  Have fun investigating!

How Strong is Spaghetti? STEM Challenge for Kids

3 Comments

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  1. Salim Apr 30, 2017

    Thanks for sharing, this is really amazing. I would like if u added also the disscution u developed with children about the mechanics of materials of the spaghetti.

    Reply
    1. Stefanie Garcia Dec 5, 2017

      Thanks for sharing. We did something similar in physics in High School.

      Reply
      1. Christa Diehl Feb 7, 2019

        This is a good project, my son used it in his science fair.

        Reply
        1. mia the meme Apr 9, 2019

          my little brother is having so much fun with this, he loves it!

          Reply

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