Spaghetti Tower Marshmallow Challenge

Spaghetti Marshmallow Challenge

Do you know about the Spaghetti Tower Marshmallow Challenge?

This is one of those legendary team-building challenges that I’ve been hearing about for ages and have never tried.

It encourages the design mindset and supports basic engineering principles. 

The basic idea is that a team is given a handful of supplies to work with — spaghetti, tape, and string — and given 18 minutes to build the tallest possible tower that can SUPPORT a marshmallow.

And the point of it? The team will practice the design process that includes thinking, doing, prototyping, and iteration. This last point, iteration, may be the most important. Watch the video at the end of this post for more on that.

Oh, and what group historically performs the BEST in the marshmallow challenge? The answer to that question is also in the video, and you will LOVE it.

Spaghetti Tower Supplies:

Each team gets the same set of supplies…

20 sticks of dry spaghetti

one yard of string

one yard of tape

one marshmallow

The objective

To build the tallest tower possible in 18 minutes that will support the marshmallow.

My two daughters, ages 4 and 6, and I set our timer for 18 minutes, and started to build. It was exciting, frustrating (spaghetti is nimble and brittle!), and fun. My little one lost interest quickly, but my older daughter stuck with it, pushing me with her novel ideas and keeping me going, right up until the timer ran out.

And, go!

Spaghetti Marshmallow STEM Challenge

We talked about how triangles build strong structures, so we started there. Our original idea was to build two structures – one that could support the other, to make our tower twice as tall.

As we got towards the end of our time, the bottom towner couldn’t support the weight of the second tower, so we chose just one of the towers to use as a support for the marshmallow. In the end, we measured our marshmallow’s height and it clocked in at 10.5 inches. Not earth-shattering, but at least we had a supporting structure!

I love my daughter’s idea to suspend the marshmallow from a string…

Spaghetti Marshmallow STEM Challenge

What we learned?

  • Triangles are good shapes for these structures
  • We probably should have built the second tower directly on the first one, rather than wait to add it at the end
  • We worked well together
  • Prototyping and iteration are important to the process
  • This challenge could lose a 4-year old’s attention 😉

More on the Marshmallow Tower Challenge

You’ll want to watch this video of Tom Wujec’s TED talk on the Marshmallow Challenge.

Marshmallow Challenge Home Page

What’s next?

I would love to try this out with our Girl Scout troop or with my older daughter’s friends. After watching Wujec’s video (above), I’m eager to see this in action with a group of young children.

More Pasta! Pasta Art Projects for Kids

Pasta art projects

Macaroni Challenge

Join the Macaroni Challenge!

Experiment with pasta, make your own pasta art project, or try one of the Marshmallow Challenge from this post (or a project from those linked above). Post a picture in one or both of these two places ::

1. The Rockin’ Art for Kids Facebook Page

2.  Instagram with the hashtag #TheMacaroniChallenge 

The challenge ends on May 10th, 2015.

Win a Prize!

Everyone who joins us in the challenge will be entered in an amazing Rockin’ Art Moms Gift Basket giveaway. The winner will be selected at random from the entries and announced on Instagram and the Rockin’ Art for Kids Facebook page on Sunday May 10th, 2015.

Prize basket giveaway will include books from the Rockin’ Art Moms ::

The Artful Parent and The Artful Year from The Artful Parent // Playful from Mer Mag //Tinkerlab from Tinkerlab //150 Screen Free Activities for Kids from Fun at Home with Kids // Happy Handmade (ebook) from MollyMoo

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Rachelle Doorley Rachelle Doorley is a mom and an arts educator with a passion for helping families and teachers set up meaningful creative projects for kids. She's the author of the popular kids’ craft book and bestseller, TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors, and her articles and ideas on creativity and arts education have been featured in School Arts Magazine, Real Simple, and FamilyFun. Rachelle has an art studio. in Palo Alto, CA where she seeks out ways to make every day creative. Join the TinkerLab circle through our FREE newsletter.

Comments

  1. says

    Whaaaaaat????? This is so cool. I am really excited to get my 17 year old sciencey step son in a room with my younger kids and have them do this as a bonding activity. (I’ll sit back and watch and eat marshmallows.)

    • Rachelle says

      Thank you, Jeanette! I bet that your kids would enjoy this, and it could be a good bonding moment. Enjoy your marshmallows :)

  2. says

    These photos are so cool, is this your studio space? I am in love with everything here! Thanks for such a great idea :) xo bar

    • Rachelle says

      Thanks, Bar! It IS my studio. The kids love to spend time in there with me. Sometimes it goes haywire, but they usually like to busy themselves with some kind of project, which is win-win for everyone.

    • Rachelle says

      There are sooo many ideas out there, Allison! Isn’t it great? I’m happy to introduce you to it.

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