Tomorrow's engineers test spaghetti bridges at a CI summer academy

Camarillo, CA - The skills of 62 aspiring engineers will be put to the test July 10 at CSU Channel Islands (CI) when the high school students break bridges they constructed out of dry spaghetti.

From 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 10, the high school engineers will break their bridges in front of the John Spoor Broome Library on the CI campus to the cheers of family, friends, school and community leaders, and government officials.

The students will also receive awards for the successful completion of the Hueneme High School Academy of Engineering & Design Summer Bridge Programs at CI and Oxnard College. Students going into 11th grade attend pre-engineering classes at Oxnard College and 12th graders study engineering and physics on the CI campus with Associate Professor of Applied Physics Gregory Wood, Ph.D.

The spaghetti bridge project is the culmination of four weeks of university-level engineering instruction for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students entering 12th grade at Hueneme High School. The ceremony gives the students a chance to show their families the skills they've learned from Wood.

"We're going to add a hook at the bottom of the bridge and hang a basket," said Hueneme High School student Jesus Escalante, 17, of Oxnard. "We're going to add water bottles to the basket and see which bridge can actually stand more."

The Hueneme High School Academy of Engineering & Design Bridge Program at CI is a joint effort of Hueneme High School, CI, and the Ventura County P-20 Council.

"This program gives students a chance to become comfortable in a four-year university environment," said CI President Richard Rush, who chairs the Ventura County P-20 Council. "We hope to encourage those interested in pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math, as companies are in need of individuals with those specific skill sets."

The grant-supported program gives 12th graders a chance to prepare for college-level engineering courses by being part of an engineering academy during the school year, and getting immersed in college-level engineering and physics classes during the Summer Bridge program, which began in June.

"My passion has always been engineering," Escalante said. "I'm excited to go to college. My mom works in a bakery and my dad is a butcher. They're very supportive."

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, the students take hands-on classes and hear from professional engineers. Fridays are for field trips to museums, universities and science-related sites.

"The real value is in the hands-on aspect of the classes. They're doing real world activities led by a university professor," said Richard Duarte, Program Coordinator for the Ventura County P-20 Council. "Many of these students come from homes where they are the first generation to go to college. This gives them an opportunity to attend class and see what college is like."

Wood uses the pasta bridge project and two other assignments to allow students to use basic engineering concepts of force, torque and material properties as they create working designs. "I think if it's an environment that's a bit playful, they'll be willing to take more risks and come up with an innovative design," Wood said.

The teams' first assignment was to design a mousetrap that will trap a ping pong ball and keep it in the enclosure, even when the trap is rattled vigorously.

The second project is an egg drop in which the teams are given one meter of thread, one meter of masking tape, two coffee filters, two sheets of paper and a two-story building.

They are told to build something that will keep an egg from breaking if dropped off a two-story building. The teams had to calculate such things as weight and velocity.

One team fashioned a cone that crumpled when it landed, softening the impact for the egg. Escalante's team had a different idea. "We built a parachute out of the coffee filter," he said.

As with any experiment, there are successes and missteps in the engineering process.

"I get eggs in bulk," Wood said.

The program has been gaining popularity each year with almost twice as many students signing up for this year's program as compared to last year, which had 35 students.

The Hueneme High School Academy of Engineering & Design Summer Bridge Program at CI is generously sponsored by The Harriet H. Samuelsson Foundation, Bank of America, and Umpqua Bank.

About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.

The California State University (CSU) will reach a significant milestone of 3 million alumni during commencement in spring 2015 and has launched the world's largest yearbook. The Class of 3 Million online yearbook is an interactive platform where alumni can create a profile and connect with the millions of other alumni from the 23 CSU campuses across the state. Alumni who sign up for the yearbook will also be entered into a special contest to win one of three $10,000 scholarships for a current or future student, sponsored by Herff Jones. For more information about the yearbook and the Class of 3 Million, visit