Monday, May 29, 2006

Spaghetti Challenge

Thing One, Thing Two and I took part in our school's "Spaghetti Challenge" last week. It was thrilling, challenging, suspensful and fun (sort of). We learned a lot about the pathos of winning and losing, but especially losing. But it also taught me an important lesson: Not all answers are available on the Internet.

The Spaghetti Challenge is a science exercise designed to show students about building, architecture, forces and problem solving. Each team was given a packet of spaghetti, a bag of marshmallows and a chocolate egg. The team that built the tallest tower in 20 minutes that could support the chocolate egg won the contest.

Now I love a good challenge. I'm also a big believer in arming myself with research and possible solutions before embarking on tasks such as this. So prior to the challenge, I did various things to get ready: I consulted with my dad (an electrical engineer), my best friend (a chemical engineer), I thought about how we could do it, and, crucially, I googled the problem.

After searching a couple of different terms, I couldn't find what I needed: a picture of a prize-winning spaghetti challenge entry. Obviously, the science teachers of the world (these contests have been held worldwide) are conspiring against future contestants in this challenge by never posting a picture of the winner. What's the point of the internet if it's not going to give up something like that?

I consoled myself by deciding I had done enough ruminating and consulting to solve the problem. We set out with a spring in our step. When we reached school, I realized I forgot my camera. "How will the world see our prize-winning entry?" I thought to myself. "I want to do my part to help future contestants!"

Thing One, Thing Two and I sat around our black bin bag, with Thing One clutching the spaghetti and Thing Two clutching the marshmallows. The whistle blew and we set to work. Our team was somewhat hampered by Thing Two's insistence that he eat a marshmallow. "But we'll need it," I said, thinking of my aspirational five-foot-tall structure. Finally, I acquiesed, knowing that if I didn't, he'd disrupt our work [read: cry until I let him have one].

To make a long story shorter, my ambitious plans were just too ambitious. We spent too much time on the first structure, whose foundation didn't really work. We pushed it aside with five minutes left to try a different one, but we ran out of time. As Thing One put it, "We didn't win because our tower did not stay up."

I should note that the winning team had THREE adults on it, a distinct advantage, and I also have insider information that as the structure got taller, the children were not allowed to build it, or for that matter, even touch it.

But we had fun. Thing One and I have decided that since Mr. MarathonMum missed the challenge (a big story broke just an hour before the challenge), we're going to try again in our kitchen.

Will I post a picture of a successful structure or will I contribute to the international conspiracy of silence? Only time will tell.

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