Spaghetti Structures Soar With 4-H
4-H'ers Bryce Montour (left) and Ansley Hill (right) with their finished Spaghetti Structure.
By Dan Sweet
At the afterschool 4-H National Mentoring Program at the St. Regis Mohawk School students were introduced to a fun filled, challenging STEM project: Spaghetti Structures. Spaghetti Structures is a project that was introduced to the Mentoring Program at a 4-H district meeting by Mackenzie Spillane, an intern from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County. The objective of this project was to create the tallest free standing structure using only spaghetti, mini and regular sized marshmallows. The 4-Hers were broken up into small groups and given an equal amount of supplies to ensure a fair competition. Before creating the tower, participants were given a brief period of time to create blueprints for their tower. Mentors from the Salmon River Middle School and High School joined the various groups in order to help facilitate the experiment. The mentors were able to help groups effectively communicate their ideas, while assisting in creating the blueprints and sharing laughter with the not so successful ideas. When given the opportunity to put the plans to action, 4-H'ers gained valuable experience in both teamwork and critical thinking. During the building period of the structures, participants were able to quickly analyze if their plan of action was successful, and those who realized their plan may crumble were able to adapt with the help of the mentors. Upon completion, the 4-H'ers had their freestanding structure measured by a judge, who would then compare it with other groups. The tallest structure (as seen in the photo) measured 51 centimeters tall, or about 20 inches. After all groups had finished and cleaned up, there was an educational portion on the different forces at work on towers. 4-H'ers were able to point out the different concepts that were covered during the lesson such as design process, compression, tension, and load bearing members, all while having a fun and friendly competition. The 4-H afterschool Mentoring Program is available to all 5th grade students at both the St. Regis Mohawk School and Salmon River Elementary School, with registration forms located in the main office at each location. Mentors or students in both good academic standing and attendance between grades 7-12 can apply through the Middle School main office.