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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Marshmallow Challenge champs extend winning streak

March 21, 2023 | Jeni Radik |
COM_Marshmallow Challenge 2023 Saint Margaret Mary School
A team from St. Mary Margaret School won first place in the Marshmallow Challenge this year with its tower, which topped 40 inches.

St. Mary Margaret School won its fourth first-place award in a row in this year’s Marshmallow Challenge.

Each year, OPPD Society of Engineers (OSE) invites fifth-grade students to join the challenge.

COM_Marshmallow Challenge 2023 Walnut Creek Elementary
A team from Walnut Creek Elementary won second place with its 39-inch tower.

The students work to build the tallest free-standing tower they can, using only uncooked spaghetti, masking tape and string, then topping off their creation with a marshmallow.

“Continuing the tradition of OSE hosting this challenge is just one way OPPD leads the way, specifically in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) engagement and outreach,” said John Kelly, OSE chair and senior account executive in Customer Sales & Services.

The contest is held annually in conjunction with National Engineers Week. It’s designed to promote problem-solving, inspire a shared learning experience and and encourage innovation through exploring ways to successfully carry out the project.

This year, members of OSE judged entries from 19 schools from across the OPPD district. Ranking structures from more than 60 teams is always hard, as the rules are specific and the materials are sparse.

The top teams

First place this year went to a team from St. Margaret Mary School in Omaha for their tower, which stood more than 40 inches high. Teams from the school won the contest in 2019, 2020 and 2022, as well.

COM_Marshmallow Challenge 2023 Logan View Elementary
A team from Logan View Elementary took third place with its 38-inch tower.

Teams have to work together to ensure the structure they build will support the marshmallow, which by itself seems light. But that same marshmallow can seem heavier than expected once you put it on top of the spaghetti structure. The marshmallow can cause the structure to tip over.

“As with all problems, you do not always get it right the first time, but you have to keep trying,” said Kristen Jacobsen, OSE community outreach officer and engineer III in Engineering Services at OPPD. “This is a good challenge for students to work together on planning and using the resources you have to solve the problem at hand.”

The tower built by a team from Walnut Creek Elementary took second place, measuring 39 inches high.

Rounding out the top three in third place was a 38-inch tower by a team from Logan View Elementary.

The top three winners’ classrooms will receive goody bags from OSE. OPPD engineers will visit their classrooms to talk about careers in engineering.

Award for creativity

The Wind Power Tower Team from Logan View Elementary won the Creativity Design Award.

Logan View Elementary won the Creativity Design Award this year.

“There were a lot of creative entries this year. It was hard to choose just one,” Jacobsen said.

“When kids think about STEM, we want them to associate OPPD and all the STEM-related work involved in keeping the lights on,” Kelly said.

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About Jeni Radik

Jeni Radik, a contributor to The Wire, is a jack-of-all-trades. She landed in the OPPD call center in 2008, graduating to Corporate Marketing & Communications. With 25 years’ worth of customer service skills, she morphed into a communications assistant, which is a good fit. When Jeni is not studying, she is spending time with her children, reveling with her grandchildren and bowling (she once rolled a perfect 300), among other activities.

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