Towers 2
Towers 3
Towers 4
Towers 1

In Towers, given certain parameters of length, width, height, and material, each team is to design, build and test the lightest tower to carry a maximum standard load.

How to Build a TowerEdit

  • The first issue of tower building is the wood selection. Many consider balsa wood to be the best, followed by bass. However, there are many different opinions on which to use. Here are some opinions:
One opinion recommends an all balsa wood tower, but it may be pretty tricky to handle. To use any type of wood, you need an extremely sharp knife for every cut, so as to cut the wood and not smash the wood fibers (A blade will have a lot of life left after you change it for tower building, and one way to save costs is to save the blades and use them later for other projects, etc.). Smashing the wood fibers damages the integrity of the wood and hurts your score.
Another opinion states that heavy bass wood should be used first when you are trying to understand the dynamics of the structure. Once you have a working design using bass wood, you can then cut off weight by using smaller sizes or balsa. Using balsa can make it more difficult if it is your first time.
Another opinion suggest that you can have a mix of balsa and bass. Where you need the extra strength you can use bass. In all other places balsa is fine. The legs are normally bass and bracings balsa. A mix of the two brings out the best of both in one tower.

  • Balsa VS. Bass
    • 1. Balsa is lighter
    • 2. Bass is easier to bend (more applicable in bridges but it is still important)
    • 3. Bass has less variation in each stick of wood.
    • 4. Bass is stronger

  • The next step is design. A four legged tower is easier to build but may not be as efficient. A 3 legged tower is extremely difficult to build, as the angles aren't nice and neat. Furthermore, a bracing strip needs to be angled 2 ways, whereas in a 4 legged design it only needs to be angled in one direction. Also, don't forget about laminating wood together- many good towers have been built by laminating very small wood together for the legs. You should also consider the height. This years rules put an emphasis on a taller tower. Although a taller tower may be harder to construct to still hold enough, it may be worth it because the advantage is big enough.
  • After you've decided on the number of legs, the bracing is the part that towers are won and lost by. It depends on the type of leg design you use, but generally balsa wood legs of dimensions 3/16x1/8cm need to be braced every 5 or 6cm all
  • the way up (by the way, a solid wood square is not the best way to go for legs). Also, with the bracing, equality is of high importance. If you brace at 5cm and then the next space is 8cm, you're testing the 8cm space. It would be better to brace at 6.5 cm and 6.5 cm in this example.
  • Other than this, the only advice I can give you is test, test, and test some more. The more you build, the better your chances of getting a good design, and the better you get at building. Analyze your failed structures. Knowing which member broke first (you can tell by the type of break, sheer, torque (twisting),or bending) will tell you what piece of wood needs to be more dense, or larger in cross section. It is a very good idea to understand how the stresses are flowing in your tower. Eventually, time spent on building individual towers will decrease, while the quality will increase. Also, never test towers over the maximum weight that the rules say. If it holds, set it aside and see where you can cut back. If you fail, then you still have a backup.


  • Make the base 16 cm across (don't make it 20cm- if you turn the base, the 16cm should just touch the outside of the square opening)
  • Cut a little bit more than you need so that you don't cut too small and waste the wood.
  • Make sure you apply only as much glue as you need. You do not want to add too much glue because it will increase the mass of the tower and it will not significantly help it.
  • Remember this year's efficiency is different than in years past. You will want as close to 70 cm tall while still maintaining a reasonable mass for the best scores. Although you can have it anywhere from 40-70 cm. There is no penalty for not holding the whole 15 kg.
  • Short, light bracings are better than long, heavy bracings.
  • When attaching trusses, make sure to glue them on top of the frame as opposed to adjacent to the frame. It makes the tower MUCH MUCH stronger because it provides a greater surface area of contact.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.