What could you do with a marshmallow, spaghetti, masking tape and string? For the seventh year, OPPD’s Society of Engineers (OSE) challenged area fifth graders to do something amazing.
The Marshmallow Contest, emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, collaboration, innovation and problem-solving strategy. The annual contest is in conjunction with National Engineers Week, and part of OPPD’s ongoing commitment to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
With guidance from their teachers, fifth grade students throughout OPPD’s service territory built the tallest free-standing structure they could within 20 minutes. They could use only 20 strands of dry spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow to top it off. OSE accepted entries via the Omaha Public Power District Facebook page Jan. 20 – Feb. 20. OPPD announced the winners Feb. 21.
“The students learn teamwork, have fun with the design, identify assumptions they are making in the project and test these early on and often,” said Cory Rosenblad, OSE vice chair and senior programs engineer in Production Energy & Fuels at OPPD.
St. Margaret Mary is no stranger to winning first place. “SMM Team #1” won with a structure that is 36.5 inches tall.
Second place went to Hickory Hill with a 35-inch tower built by “Doggos.”
Third place goes to “LAMM” at Brownell-Talbot Elementary, with a 27.5-inch structure.
The top three winner’s classrooms will receive goody bags from OSE, as well as visits from OPPD engineers to talk about careers in engineering.
In addition, OSE named a Creativity Award winner. At 24 inches tall, Hickory Hill’s team “Jameson” had the right idea. With a few tweaks they could have had a really tall structure.
Rosenblad explained, “Instead of the typical triangular base and lots of single spaghetti strands on top to get the height, these students tried to build a framework to develop stability and get the height requirement.” Only a couple teams used this route.
“With their imaginations still open to possibility, fifth-graders view a new challenge with fresh eyes instead of through blinders like many adults would,” Rosenblad said.
Children this age have no fear of failure.
“There’s no crisis in that first tumbling of the structure. It’s almost expected, and the kids learn from it and try again,” Rosenblad said.
A total of 17 different schools from across the OPPD service territory submitted entries with more than 500 kids participating.
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