Use spaghetti to build a tower modeled after the giant structures NASA uses to talk to spacecraft. Then, turn it into a challenge to build the tallest structure in a limited amount of time.

› Educators, explore how to turn this into a standards-aligned lesson for students

Activity materials


DSN antenna being built next to image of finalized antenna

1. Get inspiration from NASA

NASA builds giant antennas to talk to spacecraft across the solar system. These structures, which form NASA's Deep Space Network, must support the weight of massive dishes and stand up to strong winds. See for yourself what it’s like to build a structure that has to withstand the forces of wind and gravity in this activity.

About the image: In the images on the left, workers build one of the 34-meter (about 112-foot) antennas NASA uses to talk to distant spacecraft. On the right is an image of a completed 34-meter antenna. › Read more

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Designing a spaghetti tower

2. Design your structure

Your challenge is to use a limited amount of spaghetti and tape to build a structure that will support a marshmallow – making it as tall as you can in only 18 minutes!

Brainstorm ideas for a structure that you think will support your marshmallow (or an object of a similar size and weight). Sketch out your ideas.

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Starting to build a spaghetti tower

3. Let the countdown begin

Set a timer for 18 minutes. Start the timer, and begin building your spaghetti structure! Refer to the design you drew in the previous step.

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Testing the spaghetti tower

4. Test your structure

When your structure is complete, test it by putting the marshmallow on top to see if it will stay in place for 15 seconds.

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Measuring the spaghetti tower

5. Improve your design

If your structure doesn’t support the marshmallow for 15 seconds, evaluate what is good about your design and what could be improved. Redesign and rebuild your structure.

If your structure supports the marshmallow for 15 seconds, measure how high the marshmallow sits on your structure, and see if you can improve your design so the marshmallow sits at a higher height.

Measure how high your marshmallow is at the end of the 18 minutes.

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6. Challenge your friends and family

Invite friends and family to build a structure. Who can build the tallest spaghetti structure?

DSN Uplink-Downlink Start Screen

7. Explore more

Play the DSN Uplink-Downlink game from NASA’s Space Place to explore more about the giant structures used to talk to spacecraft across the solar system.

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