Pasta Tower

Level: NADuration: 2 class periods
Grade Level: Elementary Author: Laura Spence (TAG Member)
Materials: Tower Crusher, different types of pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine, reginette), and masking tape

Objective

Students will explore the concepts of force (push), density, and stress while creating a pasta engineering design model and testing it using a Pitsco Tower Crusher.

Description

In small teams, students will be allowed to select a specific type of pasta to create their tower. Each team will be given the same number of pasta pieces and the same length of masking tape. Groups will be challenged with the task of creating a freestanding tower that will be tested using the Pitsco Tower Crusher. Before testing each design, groups will be required to weigh their model, research the density of their pasta, and record this information on a class chart. All groups should be required to observe every group's design and test for a class communication session at the end of Day 2.

Procedures

Class chart should include the following:
  • Group no.
  • Type of pasta selected
  • Density of pasta
  • Weight of entire design
  • Did the structure withstand the Pitsco Tower Crusher?
Day 1
  • Provide students with the objective of the STEM lesson and allow them to examine samples of each type of pasta.
  • Groups should discuss characteristics of each type of pasta and its potential ability to survive the Pitsco Tower Crusher.
  • Groups should determine the pasta they have selected and record it on the class chart.
  • Time should be given for students to examine the pasta box and conduct online research to determine the density of the pasta they have selected. This information should be recorded on the class chart.
  • Groups should work together to diagram an example of what their structure will look like.

Day 2

  • Groups should create their structure and weigh their structure and record it on the class chart.
  • Each group will test their design using the Pitsco Tower Crusher while their peers observe results. Results should be recorded on the class chart.
  • Day 2 should end with a class discussion of what structures survived the Pitsco Tower Crusher (if any), why or why not some structures survived, and the revisions they would make if allowed to create a revised structure.

Discussion

  • Explain why your group selected a specific type of pasta.
  • What was the reasoning behind your thinking? How does creating a diagram of your structure before building help the group with the final build?
  • After examining the class chart, what ideas do you have for your second build?
  • How does using the Pitsco Tower Crusher help us to understand density, weight, and stress?

Continuation

Groups can be given a second opportunity to revise/improve their structure. Groups should be given time to conduct research about pasta towers online to see what other students have done around the world.