Engineering Innovation Program at Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus

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Photos by Phil Fabrizio

These future engineers were fueled by pasta.

Spaghetti and glue were their materials as they spent weeks laboring to build a bridge that would carry a heavy load.

Approximately 30 high school students attended Engineering Innovation at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. Hailing from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Puerto Rico, these students participated in a four-week college-level course offered by the Whiting School of Engineering Center for Educational Outreach. In addition to the students taking the class in Rockville, approximately 400 students participated in sites in Washington State, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Frederick and Elkridge.

Students learned to think and problem solve like engineers while learning about different types of engineering, including mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and robotics.
The idea behind the class is to give high school students a broad survey overview of engineering so they can decide whether they want to major in engineering in college. Many of them do: Since the program’s launch, 86 percent of alumni have gone on to major in engineering or science.
The highlight of the course was the spaghetti bridge project. Students, working in teams of three, made bridges out of nothing more than dry spaghetti – a few other noodle shapes were allowed – and epoxy glue. They designed their bridges using sophisticated computer software, and then used the materials to turn their designs into reality.
Each team could use no more than a half pound of spaghetti. The maximum vertical depth of the bridge could not exceed 25 centimeters. The maximum weight of the bridge could not exceed 250 grams.

On the last day of class, students gathered in the auditorium for the spaghetti bridge ceremony. Kilo by kilo, they added weights to the bridges until they shattered.

The winning bridge from then Montgomery County Campus students carried 24 pounds.

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