Students test their engineering skills during Spaghetti Bridge Competition at Ferris

BIG RAPIDS - What do spaghetti, glue and a good plan have in common? They are all essential tools to successful bridge making during the seventh annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition at Ferris State University March 17 and 18.

The competition: Build a bridge that can withstand as much weight as possible, beginning with 2 kilograms. The end result: Earn one of four $2,000, four $1,000 or four $500 Ferris scholarships.

The contenders include 20 teams from 14 high schools, with first, second and third place being awarded to the competition's overall winners and first through fifth place being awarded to teams in four categories, including Authentic Bridge Design, Oral Presentation, Written Presentation and Load-Bearing Competition. Cash prizes for teams earning first through fifth place in each category range from $500 to $50 for school labs, classrooms or clubs.

"The Ferris State University Spaghetti Bridge Competition puts students at the heart of the learning process, engaging them intellectually through a team environment," organizers said. "This proactive approach to learning allows students to problem solve through theory and application."

Competitors don't show up March 17 without a plan, however. Teams have spent time creating oral and written presentations of their design theories, as well as constructing an authentic bridge before they arrive at Ferris. It's this hard work and research that makes or breaks on-site bridge construction March 18, when students put their theories to the ultimate test: How much weight can each bridge sustain?

Teams have two hours to construct a free-standing bridge that crosses an open span of 24 inches with only spaghetti, glue and a mystery element unveiled to competitors Friday evening. Past mystery elements have included two pieces of lasagna, 3 feet of thread, manicotti and a 3-foot piece of Duct tape.

Taking their chances this year are students from the following high schools: Big Rapids, Cedar Springs, Chippewa Hills, Clinton, Crossroads Charter Academy, Kenowa Hills, Lapeer Ed/Tech Center, Morley Stanwood, Northwestern Preparatory Academy, Reed City, Regina, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Charles and Whitefish Township.


14 March, 2006