Malik Mubashshir’s Advisory, Jack Kessler Win Tower Building Competition

Malik Mubashshir’s senior advisory and Jack Kessler ‘23 constructed the tallest towers in the 2021 Math Science Symposium FSS Build-a-Thing-Hope-it-Works Invitational, which asked students to make the tallest structures they could out of nothing but spaghetti and marshmallows. Malik’s advisory won the in the group category with a tower of 83 cm, while Jack won the individual event with a tower of 71 cm.

Jack’s strategy for construction was simply to “make a pyramid.” Although Jack’s vision was similar to many other groups, he made a wider base with more structurally sound support, enabling him to build higher than other participants.

Sarah Goldberg ‘21 guided strategy and construction for Malik’s advisory, but all in-person members of the advisory contributed to the winning tower. “We just made a hexagon and then built up with triangles,” explained Sarah.

The building competition was inspired by the old bridge building competition, which retired science teacher Jim Brubaker oversaw on Math/Science Symposium Day during his time at Friends Select. According to science department chair Natalie Mayer, students eventually researched optimal bridge building techniques, rendering the competition repetitive on a year-to-year basis. Consequently, the department has introduced a new competition every year since.

Although organizing a competition this year was difficult due to limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the science department insisted on holding a building challenge. “We thought that it would be fun and that [the challenge] would bring us back to how things used to be,” said the department. “We were all determined to make it happen.” The department purchased approximately 90 boxes of spaghetti and 40 bags of mini marshmallows for the competition. 

STEAM Program Director Mike Primo, who hosted the Zoom for the challenge, sees a clear connection between the building competition and the value of STEAM education. “As students, it’s not your job to save the world, it’s your job to get ready to save the world. It may feel weird to throw away a lot of food for this competition, but it’s good practice to overcome constraints in a project like this, which is what you’ll have to do when you have to save the world,” he said. The Science department is thinking of ways to donate the extra food as well.