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May 20, 2024

Engineering, done marshmallow style

By RACHEL WITKIN | February 21, 2013

Theta Tau, Hopkins’s Professional Engineering Fraternity, held its sixth annual Tower of Power competition last Monday, Feb. 18. The event was a kickoff party for the Whiting School of Engineering’s E-Week, which is part of its 20-month-long celebration of 100 years of engineering at Hopkins.  Since the School of Engineering’s first year was from fall 1912 to spring 1913, Hopkins decided to start celebrating at the beginning of 2012 and keep celebrating throughout 2013.

Participants had 30 minutes to build a tower out of pasta and marshmallows. Their goal was to create the tallest tower possible that could stand on its own.  After the 30 minutes, Theta Tau judges measured the towers and awarded gift cards to the top two winners.  15 teams in total participated, including students, an alumni team and a team of middle school students.

Whiting School of Engineering Dean Nicolas P. Jones opened the event by talking about how great it was that Hopkins was celebrating 100 years of engineering.

“This is always one of my favorite events. How much more fun could you have?” he said. “You’re given a box of spaghetti, a bag of marshmallows, and your job is to build the biggest tower you can. It doesn’t get any better than that, in my opinion.”

He mentioned the diverse group of students and guests who were at the event and gave a shout-out to the alumni team in particular, who won for three years in a row and won second place last year. After mentioning the other E-Week events, he wished the teams good luck.

“And may the best teams win,” he said.

The groups lined up by their spaghetti and marshmallows. After 30 minutes had passed, some of the towers had fallen down. The first place tower was 64 inches and was built by juniors Mohn Rahman and Album Shen, and sophomores Emily Scher and Jerry Wang.

According to Shen, their original strategy revolved around using a hexagonal base with pyramids. However, they made a mistake on the 2nd level, which forced them to use more marshmallows. This, however, made their tower even taller than they had expected.

“We owe a lot of success to random chance,” Shen said.

The second-place team had a 62-inch-high tower and was comprised of freshman Andrew Dykman and sophomores Margo Heston and Daniel Swann.

Neither the alumni team or the middle school team placed this year. Each year, a team is chosen from the middle school students that compete in the Center for Educational Resources’ virtual competition. The winning team has been from Waldorf Middle School for the past few years. This year’s team was made up of 8th graders Crystal Cheng, Hannah Garner and Kristina Waymire.

The girls said that it was very nerve-wracking for them to compete against college students.

“I thought that we would be last,” Waymire said.

They had used a 5 X 5 tower in their middle school competition, but wanted to try something different this time.

“We wanted to try a 6 X6, but that didn’t turn out well,” Cheng said.

However, all three of them enjoyed the experience, and Waymire may even want to be an engineer when she gets older.

Theta Tau President, sophomore Marc Alvarado, thought that the Tower of Power was a great way to complement E-Week, which consisted of mostly career-related events.

“I think that the event went overall, pretty well,” he said. “There’s no problems to really run into.”

The Women of Whiting is holding a panel on career development tomorrow, at 5 p.m. in the Sherwood Room in Levering, where professional engineers and entrepreneurs will answer questions. On Friday night, Tau Beta Pi is having a mixer with students and faculty.

“It’s all very professional [events],” Alvarado said.

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