Spaghetti and Rainbows

Add a sprinkle of science to the popular rainbow spaghetti activity; the uncooked spaghetti is great for building structures and, after cooking, it can be used to talk about polymers.

Science Ingredients

  • Spaghetti or linguine pasta
  • Marshmallows

Supper Ingredients

  • Spaghetti, linguine or noodles
  • Food colouring
  • Butter or oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Connect lengths of uncooked spaghetti by pushing them into the marshmallows
  2. Start by building a square base, then a cube and then try a pyramid – which feels more sturdy?
  3. Who can build the tallest tower?
  4. There is a brilliant activity worksheet from the Science Museum that has lots of ideas and pictures
  5. Cook the pasta according to the instructions, drain and rinse under cold water
  6. Set up small pots or bowls (lidded plastic containers are ideal)
  7. Add a glug of food colouring to each one, then divide the pasta between them
  8. Cover, shake and leave for a few minutes
  9. Cooked spaghetti can be used to illustrate the difference between amorphous and crystalline structure (see below)
  10. To eat your rainbow spaghetti, reheat in the microwave and add oil, butter, salt and pepper to taste

Science in a Sentence

In the spaghetti structures activity, you can see that a wide base and lots of triangles make for a sturdy tower. We love this Science Channel video about triangles (and donuts).

Polymers in a Paragraph

Some polymers have crystalline regions, where the chains line up, and amorphous areas that are messy like a bowl of spaghetti

Polymers are made by chemical reactions that join many small molecules into a long chains. Plastics such as polythene and nylon are polymers. Polymers can be strong, durable and flexible and are important materials. Polymer chains can be arranged in different ways. Polythene has an amorphous (messy) structure like the cooked spaghetti. PET, a type of plastic often used to make bottles, has a semi-crystalline structure where some of the chains are lined up. You can learn more about this difference and the resulting material properties here.

Notes

Experiment with the food colouring , mixing different colours to make the whole rainbow. If you only have a few colours, try worms, slime, traffic light pasta or unicorn tails (use red and blue to make pinks and purples).

If you don’t have any marshmallows, use gummy sweets or sticky tape. See who can build the tallest tower with a limited amount of material (Engineers are always thinking about how to optimise resources). Next time you go for a walk, see how many structures you can see that use triangular shapes, there is a nice video from Design Squad here.

Prior to that we built three structures, a cube and a couple of pyramids and were able to confirm that triangles are indeed, to use the technical term, not wobbly.

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