Future Engineers Build Pasta Bridges at Johns Hopkins Summer Program

by Diane VanDyke

After spending a month at Montgomery County Community College in the Johns Hopkins Engineering Innovation Summer Program, 17 area high school students shared their newly acquired engineering knowledge and design skills in a friendly competition to test the endurance of their bridges constructed with spaghetti pasta and epoxy.

The bridge competition was the culminating event of the Summer Engineering Innovation Program provided by Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering at MCCC from June 23 through July 24. Dow Chemical Company, with a large research and development presence in Montgomery County, provided a grant for scholarships for eligible participants to help offset tuition costs.

“We are passionate about our commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and recognize that by stimulating an interest in, providing access to, and improving the quality of STEM education in the U.S. and the world, we will ensure a steady pipeline of talent for the future,” said Justin Land, Northeast public affairs manager at Dow. “This program has provided high school students the opportunity to use the power of collaboration and science in solving challenges that face us.”

Taught by the College’s Faculty Diversity Fellow Gayathri Moorthy, Ph.D., and adjunct science instructor Frederick Schlick, the program included lab activities in computer, chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering, as well as material science and robotics. Students who earned an A or B in the course are awarded three credits from JHU.

For the students, the program offered them a chance to explore the field of engineering in consideration of future education and careers.

“This experience has truly changed my life. The exposure to the different fields of engineering has completely opened up my eyes to all that the career has to offer. I am now 100% positive that engineering is the path for me, thanks to this program. I have always excelled in the areas of math and science at school, but I never knew how to apply my skills to a career. This program has changed my outlook on engineering, along with my future,” said participant Carolyn Sweeney, in a letter thanking Dow for its generous support.

Omkar Katta shared similar sentiments in his thank you letter, “This course is a wonderful and rare experience to understand how conceptual knowledge is applied to reality. I knew that I wanted to be an engineer, but I did not understand what that entailed. Engineering Innovation gave me a taste of what an engineer’s career feels like.”

Participants included Albert Abrevaya (Blue Bell), Satya Butler (Philadelphia) Allison Carrigan (Lansdale), Rebecca Cohen (Conshohocken), Erin Dempsey (Collegeville), Katy Gerace (Lansdale), Sidarth Giddu (Lansdale), Alekhya Gunturi (New Hope), Haebin Rho (Korea), Omar Katta (Souderton), Juyeong Oh (Lansdale), Gordon Robertson (Philadelphia), Yashveer Singh (Schwenksville), Carolyn Sweeney (Conshohocken), Sandy Tang (Philadelphia), Saul Thomas (Blue Bell) and Roger Yu (Newtown).

During the final weeks of the program, students designed and built their bridges using only spaghetti and epoxy mixed with a hardening agent. The criteria for the completed bridges included a maximum weight of 250 grams, height of 25 centimeters, span of 50 centimeters and minimum width of five centimeters. The winning bridge, built by Roger Yu, Haebin Rho, Carolyn Sweeney, and Juyeong Oh, held 35 pounds, beating last year’s record of 16.5 pounds. The second place winners were Albert Abrevaya, Sandy Tang and Yashveer Singh and their bridge held 20 pounds. The third place winners were Satya Butler, Saul Thomas and Rebecca Cohen and their bridge held 12 pounds.

Through this partnership with Johns Hopkins and the generous support of Dow, MCCC is able to offer programs like this for high school students to encourage them to explore careers in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

For students pursuing engineering careers, MCCC offers an Engineering Associate of Science degree program to ensure the seamless transfer of credits to four-year engineering programs accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

For more information about engineering or other courses offered at Montgomery County Community College or the dual enrollment program for high school students, visit mc.edu.

Students tested their bridges built with uncooked pasta and epoxy adhesive to see how much weight the bridges could hold. They continued to add weights until the bridges snapped. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

Students tested their bridges built with uncooked pasta and epoxy adhesive to see how much weight the bridges could hold. They continued to add weights until the bridges snapped. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

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