For pasta bridges, add a dash of patience Engineering students make spans of spaghetti

November 09, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

For the better part of a week, Tina Thompson's and Adrienne Via's lives were consumed by pasta and glue.

The 19-year-olds -- engineering students at the Johns Hopkins University -- spent up to seven hours a day piecing together strands of spaghetti that would eventually become the "Cheesecake Bay Bridge," an intricate series of ladder-like shapes supported by longer pieces of pasta.

The results were impressive, but the process became, well, a drag. Gluing spaghetti "gets sort of boring," Via said.

They were among more than 60 Hopkins freshmen at the Maryland Science Center yesterday competing in the university's fifth annual spaghetti-bridge competition. The contest is part of an introductory engineering class requiring students to construct a lightweight but strong model bridge.

Working in teams, the students stood to collect a $100 alumni prize for the bridge that would support the most -- an honor that went yesterday to a span named "Paparazzi," built by Dan Olson, Onajite Onaodowan, Jeff Krzywon and Stanton Lee. It supported 143 pounds.

But any bridge carrying more than 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) without collapsing also won a big prize -- exemption for its builders from the final exam.

"It takes a lot of patience. It takes a lot of time. I'm glad it looks good," Onaodowan, 18, said of the group effort as she waited for judging to begin.

The students took over a floor of the science center, manning tables with creations named "Macaroni Monster," "Ravioli Road," and "Angel Hair Traverse" while wearing yellow plastic hard hats.

While they were not seasoned builders, some had a little experience under their belts.

Melody Agustin, 18, noted that she had tried to build a bridge in elementary school using McDonald's drinking straws and sewing pins.

Jamie Nichols, 18, Melody's partner, said building their "Chef's Special #9" consumed more than 40 hours, "lots of patience, and losing lots of sleep."

Call it a toll bridge.

Pub Date: 11/09/98

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