Westmoreland County high schoolers use their noodles in engineering competition
It had the makings for quite the Italian feast, if only the noodles weren't saturated in hot glue.
Dozens of high schoolers used pounds of spaghetti and lasagna — cobbled together with the glue — in hopes that their pasta bridge would hold up to the test in a competition Monday night at St. Vincent College.
“We did way better than we thought we would,” said Elissa Novelli, a Franklin Regional Senior High School freshman.
But even the strongest of noodles couldn't withstand the weight.
Students from nine Westmoreland County high schools ferried their uncooked creations into the Fred Rogers Center for the 10th annual engineering competition co-sponsored by the college and Carbone's Restaurant in Crabtree.
While restaurant president Vince Mangini acknowledged that every bridge would ultimately fail, college officials called the bout a great way for young students to experiment.
“There's some inter-school competition going on, and I think that's fun,” said Paul Follansbee, engineering professor at the college.
Each team got a package of spaghetti and a box of lasagna. It was up to them to create a bridge that would not crack when increasing amounts of weight were hoisted into a bucket attached to the structure.
Some split in half quickly.
Others earned the hushed silence of the audience before giving in with a thud.
Novelli and Claire Pamerleau gingerly placed ounce after ounce into a bucket attached to their truss-style bridge created by the all-female team from Franklin Regional. Their project cracked under the pressure of 9.25 pounds.
“This was our first year,” Novelli said, planning what would work best for next year's competition.
Hempfield Area High's Chase Pastor wasn't messing around with ounce weights. The team's bridge broke with a loud crunch under 58.4 pounds of plate weights.
“We won the past two years, and we held 86 pounds last year, so we were pretty confident not having to put the little ones in,” said Pastor, a senior.
The all-male team reclaimed victory. In second place was a team from Greensburg-Salem High whose bridge withstood 37.6 pounds. They were trailed by a team from Norwin whose bridge broke under 28 pounds.
Stacks of lasagna noodles glued together made for a flexible bridge for three Greensburg Central Catholic High seniors. Their production withstood 2.6 pounds before snapping.
“All the hot glue ... it was so time-consuming,” Loukas Feher said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer.