Print this Page

Operation Brunel

op brunel web hdr ED J Flickr
IKB HimselfThe celebrated, Victorian engineering pioneer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is the inspiration for this evening for men, a competition of engineering and construction skill. Amongst his engineering feats Brunel built the SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven, ocean-going iron ship; launched in 1843 it was the largest vessel ever built at the time. His famous bridges include the Clifton Suspension bridge in Bristol and the Royal Albert Bridge spanning the river Tamar near Plymouth. As Chief Engineer, his portfolio of engineering genius could be seen in what was the Great Western Railway, said to be one of the wonders of Victorian Britain, running from London to Bristol and later to Exeter.

An evening not for wimps……

For our evening of challenge we have slightly lesser ambitions than Brunel but no less challenging.

It’s the Spaghetti Bridge Challenge.

Yes, that’s right, we will test our engineering mettle, and see hoe far we measure up to Isambard  himself, by building bridges out of dried spaghetti and testing them to destruction. Believe it or not, there is a World Championship and the record load carried by a spaghetti bridge is a mind blowing 570kg, so this is not for wimps. It is an approach used seriously in university engineering schools to put theories into practice.

So are you up for pitting yourself against the challenge of engineering, building and destroying a bridge made from spaghetti?  Then come along to Operation Brunel and test yourself.

The rewards

It’s not often we have a chance to be with a group of guys so come along and enjoy. If that was not enough we will have refreshments and prizes too.

Exclusively for men

Of course, it will be exclusively for men; individuals or teams.

Operation Brunel Details

Date: Thursday 16th November You can obtain Tickets form Mike Waddell
on 07527 058600orFrom the Creation Cabin café at Letchworth Baptist Church in West View. Open Fridays and Saturdays
10am to 4pm.
Venue: 19:30
Time: 20:00hrs
Tickets: £10.00

 The competition

We will provide the materials and you can choose one of three designs to build. Alternatively, you can research and plan your own design beforehand and build it on the night. Just Google  “spaghetti bridge building” and explore.

Construction time is limited to 1½ hours and there are times when you will need more than one pair of hands so a team of three is ideal to compete in this challenge.  You can bring your team or you can choose your team mates on the night.

When the bridges are tested, load weights will be placed on the roadbed in the middle of the bridge. Weight will be added until the bridge fails. So, there are two challenges:

The strongest bridge:

The bridge with the greatest strength factor wins. The bridge is weighed before test and the load which caused the bridge to fail will be weighed. The Strength Factor = Load Weight / Bridge Weight

The greatest weight supported:

This prize is as simple as it seems. The bridge which can carry the greatest weight wins.

You might think that the winners would be the same bridge, well not necessarily. A bridge weighing 100g and carrying a 300g load would have Strength factor of 3 but another bridge weighing 200g might carry a 400g load but its Strength Factor is only 2.

In my experiments my best load was 780g and best Strength Factor was 4.15, and I’m sure I could beat both.  Can you…….? 

 The Competition Rules

  • Build time is 90 minutes
  • The bridge must:
    • be made only of dry spaghetti and glue (both will be provided)
    • bridge a 45cm gap in a single span and have a roadbed 10cm wide
  • It must be possible to
    • pass an object with a 5cm square profile through the bridge on the roadbed.
    • place weights by hand in the middle of the bridge from above. We don’t expect to come close to the 570kg world record load and will be using stacks of coins as the load.

Clifton Suspension Bridge: Creative Commons Licence – Ed J

Brunel: Creative Commons Licence – Pere Ubu

Permanent link to this article: