Building bridges, out of spaghetti

Nyah Tiessen, left, Jaxson Hartmann and Connor Hidalgo had spent about an hour and a half on their bridge design and were busy adding spaghetti sticks to connect the beams of their bridge. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Nyah Tiessen, left, Jaxson Hartmann and Connor Hidalgo had spent about an hour and a half on their bridge design and were busy adding spaghetti sticks to connect the beams of their bridge. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Instructor Rene Ragetli, left, watches as this three person team (Destyn John, left, Quinlan Shields and Peyton Dodd) puts their spaghetti bridge design to the test. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Instructor Rene Ragetli, left, watches as this three person team (Destyn John, left, Quinlan Shields and Peyton Dodd) puts their spaghetti bridge design to the test. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Lilian Poulin tests out her bridge design. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Lilian Poulin tests out her bridge design. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Lilian Poulin was busy adding extra support beams to her bridge design, to be able to sustain a bigger weight. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Lilian Poulin was busy adding extra support beams to her bridge design, to be able to sustain a bigger weight. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Jarell Zilinski, left, and bridge building partner Makaio Campbell test out their design. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Jarell Zilinski, left, and bridge building partner Makaio Campbell test out their design. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)

Hope Secondary’s Grade 7 class had a mission this past Wednesday, Nov. 18, and that mission involved building sturdy, weight bearing bridges out of an unorthodox material.

The tools for the mission were a couple of glue guns, many packages of raw spaghetti and some newly acquired knowledge about bridge building.

“It started out with pretty much just a stick of hard spaghetti, we hot glued it, then we just started slapping some spaghetti together,” Jarell Zilinski said of the start of his and Makaio Campbell’s spaghetti bridge. “Then Makaio and I, we started making these triangles because from what I know the triangle is the strongest shape.” And triangles bring the tension to the ground Zilinski added. Campbell said the lesson of the day was how to use a glue gun.

Nyah Tiessen, Jaxson Hartmann and Connor Hidalgo chose to go with a wide bridge with three beams along it. The team was busy adding spaghetti across the top of their bridge, to connect the beams. “We’re going with the suspension method, which is hopefully going to pull it so it doesn’t sag that much,” said Hartmann. “It’s hard work, lots of burned fingers,” Hidalgo added.

Spaghetti does break very easily said Lilian Poulin, from experience. “And I didn’t know the little support beams had a purpose, I thought they were just for decoration. So I didn’t know that they had a purpose to get some of the weight off and suspend it upwards instead of it collapsing,” she said.

The bridges are meant to be able to hold one kilogram for one minute at least, or that’s the goal. And the prize for the team that completes this feat was king-sized chocolate bars to motivate the young bridge builders. Groups of students approached the testing area carefully balancing their bridges across two desks. The weight was put on and the spaghetti began to bend precariously, which for most meant it was back to the construction area to apply more spaghetti to support the weight.

Rene Ragetli is director of project operations for Skills Ready, an initiative by the Construction Foundation of B.C. He was at the Grade 7 class as part of the organization’s mission, to expose young people to careers in the skilled trades through experiential learning. Hence the spaghetti.

“So we talk a bit about bridge building, engineering, ironworking, some of the related trades and we very briefly go through various methods of bridge building and various techniques that are used,” Ragetli said. “And then as you can see, they have absorbed some of those different ideas and [they’re] obviously drawing on what they’ve seen in their own lives.”

In addition to working on a spaghetti bridge, or copper bracelets and sheet metal toolbox making as the metal classes did the following day, some learning about how to get into these careers is also shared including the ‘earn while you learn’ option of apprenticeships. “These are well paying jobs and they are in high demand and for the forseeable future they will be in high demand. So I think it’s important that young people and their parents know that this is an avenue, this is one option of many,” Ragetli said.

Skills Ready will be at Agassiz Elementary Secondary School Dec. 2 and at Boston Bar Elementary Secondary School this coming March.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com


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