John Taylor Collegiate staff and students hope spaghetti is strong enough to bridge the hunger gap for Winnipeg Harvest.
The local food bank, which moves around 11-million pounds of food each year, was the beneficiary of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM)’s annual Spaghetti Bridge Building Competition at Kildonan Place on March 9.
To enter the competition, students must use only spaghetti and white glue to construct a bridge weighing a maximum of 350 grams and extending between 320 and 400 millimetres. The bridges are then tested to see how much weight they can bear.
John Taylor physics teacher Tim Francis said students started work on the project at the start of second semester.
"It is a fairly big project. We need to start it (early) so the glue is dry," he said, noting he expected approximately 60 students to compete. "I start them off with a triangular template that we build so that it’s within the specs. From there, they can do whatever they want."
Francis said for Grade 9 students, each pound held by a bridge represents a percentage of their mark on the assignment.
John Taylor student Natalie Foucart explained her design was created through trial and error, eventually consulting a 3D computer design program for a solid design.
"When I started, I made a few pieces of thick layers of spaghetti, and they just ended up cracking, so I had to figure out another way," she said.
APEGM executive director and registrar Grant Koropatnick said he hopes participants were able to enjoy themselves while learning about engineering.
"We want them to have a lot of fun, of course, but connecting the fun to engineering principles of design, construction, materials, and how you put them all together is really the goal," he said. "We know that kids intuitively like to cut and paste and glue.
"We take it to another level, to ask science teachers to incorporate scientific principles — strength of materials, stresses and strains."
APEGM planned to donate the cash equivalent to purchase a pound of spaghetti for every pound of weight the bridges bore over the course of the day, which ended up at 12,305 pounds. As well, Canada Safeway and Peak of the Market each pledged to match that donation.
"I’ve been challenging our professional members for about the past year that we’ve got to get active in the community," said Koropatnick. "Be the engineer in (your) community — don’t just be the engineer at your desk."
Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott said he’s glad to see the organization benefitting from the donations on the day of the event, but hopes to also see the emphasis on education play a role in helping to reduce food bank usage with children becoming self-sufficient adults.
"We’re really interested in making sure kids eat today, but we’re really interested in making sure those kids become aware of learning and skill sets and science, but also get that sense of caring that they can put back into the community," Northcott said.