Students compete in Gingerbread House Shakedown competition

Riverside, Calif. (Dec. 19, 2023) — As a creative way to get young people interested in the engineering and STEM fields, California Baptist University hosted its annual Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Shakedown on Dec. 15. This event, held for the second year, brings high school students together to build a gingerbread house and test its durability on CBU’s earthquake simulator.

“This is a great way to introduce the community to engineering,” said Dr. Phil van Haaster, dean of the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering. “Students develop an interest and intrigue in an exciting field that can affect the world around them.”


This year, the event reached its capacity with 13 teams — a total of 62 students — from nine local high schools.

Students were provided everything they needed — graham crackers, hot glue gun, frosting, even candy decorations — to create their gingerbread house within two hours. Their challenge: build a gingerbread house that could withstand several levels on CBU’s earthquake simulator.

CBU’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) served as mentors for the high school teams, asking questions about why their house may or may not withstand the shake table and offering suggestions. Local engineers served as judges for the competition, awarding teams in the categories of Strongest, Tallest, Best Decorated and Best Team Spirit.

“This event is promoting an interest in engineering, and we need more events like this!” said Bill Hemsley, from the Inland Empire chapter of the American Public Works Association and a volunteer judge for the event.

As soon as the build time was up, judges evaluated the gingerbread houses. Then the houses were moved to the earthquake shake table to begin testing.

Nearly all 13 gingerbread houses made it through the first few rounds on the shake table. But as the shake table began to replicate stronger earthquakes of higher magnitudes, gingerbread houses began to cave in, fall apart and some jumped around the table. After several rounds, there was only one house left fully intact.

The team Four Guys and I from Rubidoux High School made the house that survived the longest.

“They were creative and visionary and really had a handle on what they were doing. I think we have some future civil engineers in our midst,” van Haaster said.

“We built our gingerbread house using triangles at the base, and that made the difference on the shake table,” said Irieanna Jimenez, a member of the winning team.

The Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Shake Table event happens every December at CBU. If you are interested in participating, contact the College of Engineering at

The College of Engineering offers various degrees in aviation science and engineering. Additionally, students and faculty focus research efforts on green technologies, rehabilitation technologies and technologies designed to improve life in developing parts of the world. CBU offers an accelerated three-year program that enables students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in as little as three years.

Contact CBU Marketing and Communication

Vice President for Marketing and Communication:
Angela Meluski

8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504