• Last modified 2690 days ago (March 7, 2012)


County students meet to solve problems

Staff writer

Dropping eggs from 17 feet in the air, building skyscrapers from Popsicle sticks and bridges from pasta were just some of the activities that drew 15 Marion County students to the Engineering Expo at the University of Kansas on Feb. 23.

Students from Marion and Goessel, ranging from third through twelfth grades, competed alongside nearly 2,000 other students from Kansas and Missouri in activities designed to test their ingenuity at solving engineering problems.

Marion Elementary School fourth-graders Kennedy Fahey and Chloe Burkholder and Goessel High School senior Stephan Goertzen tackled the pasta bridge competition, using items like spaghetti, penne pasta, and lasagna noodles for construction materials.

“The main idea was to see how much weight it could hold,” Fahey said. “It had to weigh between one and five pounds, and could only be six inches high.”

Goertzen created his design by studying truss systems and choosing two to combine. He used only spaghetti for his bridge.

“The pasta I found wasn’t very sturdy, so I just ended up using thick spaghetti, which worked the best,” Goertzen said.

At the competition, a bucket was suspended from a bridge, and weight was added until the bridge broke.

“The girl in front of us, you could hear hers snapping,” Burkholder said.

Goessel seventh-grade student Lanna Wagner chose the egg drop competition, as did Marion third-graders Laura Savage and Macy Sigel.

Students had to construct a container that would keep an egg intact when dropped from 17 feet. Parachutes were optional accessories.

Savage had a perfect setup at home to test her design and deal with broken eggs.

“We have a bathroom window upstairs that is exactly 17 feet,” Savage said. “I tested a lot of eggs, and my dogs loved them.”

Sigel said she used a Wheat Things box, rubber bands, straws, pipe cleaners, pillow stuffing, cotton balls, and a plastic mesh produce sack to create her cage, and a plastic bag for a parachute.

Wagner took a different approach to building her egg cage.

“I made a cage out of wire, and then crocheted a sack to put the egg in and tied it to the wire,” Wagner said. Wagner didn’t use a parachute, but wrapped her cage in foil to absorb the impact at landing.

When students weren’t competing, they explored fun and creative activities that illustrated engineering concepts applied to everyday situations.

Marion seventh-graders Nathan Baldwin and Cade Harms were particularly impressed with one activity modeled after the “Mouse Trap” board game.

“They had a whole room dedicated to that – it was a giant game of mouse trap,” Baldwin said.

“You actually caught a person in a mouse suit,” Harms added.

The game was a large example of a Rube Goldberg machine, one of the expo competition categories. Seeing it in action gave Baldwin and Harms ideas for next year’s competition.

“After we did that and saw some of the competitions there, it was really cool, and we’re thinking about that,” Baldwin said.

Students who participated in the Engineering Expo included:


  • Stephan Goertzen, Pasta Bridge, 12th grade
  • Dane Kruger, Chemical Car, 9th grade
  • Lanna Wagner, Egg Drop, 7th grade
  • Jessica Saunders, Egg Drop, 3rd grade


  • Nathan Baldwin and Cade Harms, Monster Car, 7th grade
  • Tori Smith, Paige May and Taylor May, Skyscraper, 7th grade
  • Colin Williams, Rube Goldberg Machine, 6th grade
  • Corbin Wheeler, Downhill Challenge, 6th grade
  • Christian Becker, Monster Car, 5th grade
  • Kennedy Fahey and Chloe Burkholder, Pasta Bridge, 4th grade
  • Laura Savage, Egg Drop, 3rd grade
  • Macy Sigel, Egg Drop, 3rd grade

Last modified March 7, 2012