McGill Spaghetti Bridge Contest

December 2nd, 2003 - Download the Video

Click here to download the video clip 0.5mbOne of the optional projects for my Physics for Engineers course at John Abbott consisted of creating a spaghetti bridge. The bridge had to span one meter, and its weight could not exceed 750g. The entire project turned out to be a real challenge, and took over 36 hours to build! My partner Bijan and I finished it at 2:30am Monday morning - it was the first bridge spaghetti we had ever built. The professor at McGill recommended building three or four and testing them all but there no way we were going to do that. When is was finally finished we set it between two chairs, pulled on it a bit with our hands and we were like "Ya, it'll hold something." The contest was Tuesday afternoon.

Click for larger photoIn the end it held 23.6 times its own weight, equivalent to 15.6kg or 34.4 pounds. We were a little disappointed with it (the world record is over ten times more), but apparently all the bridges tested afterwards didn't exceed it. John Abbot got the two highest ratio's even though we were competing against McGill engineering students. Another odd thing is that our bridge was the lightest one at the competition, at 661 grams.

The bridge was basically made entirely out of triangular trusses as in the picture. The load rested on a total of 24 strands of spaghetti. There were 8 strands of spaghetti to hold in the two base legs. Each "cable" was made out of segments of two overlapping strands glued together.

Unknown to me at the time, apparently the McGill physics teacher filmed the crashing of the spaghetti bridge when it was loaded. The video clip is a pretty small filesize and you can download it here.

Just so you know if you ever enter a contest, the photo below demonstrates exactly how NOT to build a bridge. Let just say that this bridge didn't exactly win the contest.