The Challenge

The task for this event is to construct an operational free-standing pillar within the constraints imposed by the rules of this event. The winner will be the team which predicts the greatest operational load value for their pillar, provided the pillar actually holds this load. Competitors must realize that their pillar may be tested to its breaking point!

You Will Need

maximum of 100 popsicle sticks

glue (any type)

inch piece of plywood (36 cm x 36 cm) to serve as the base for the popsicle stick

inch piece of plywood (22 cm x 22 cm) to serve as the platform on the top of the popsicle stick pillar (upon which the load will be placed)

maximum of 12 woodnails to fasten the base and platform to the pillar


disk weights


  1. Students should be given a total of one hour within which to complete the construction and testing of their pillar. 30 minutes will be allocated for construction. Students will then have 10 minutes within which to determine the operational load value of their pillar, record it and submit it to the judges.

  2. The pillar is to be constructed of popsicle sticks and any type of glue. No other materials are permitted. A maximum of 100 popsicle sticks may be used. Glue should be confined to the spaces between the sticks. Note: Excessive amounts of glue appearing on exposed stick surfaces should result in disqualification of the entry.

  3. Testing the pillar: The pillar must be mounted on a base made of inch plywood (36 cm x 36 cm). A piece of inch plywood (22 cm x 22 cm) must be mounted on the top of the pillar to support the operational load. To mount the pillar on the plywood base and platform you may attach the popsicle sticks to either the flat surfaces or edges of the plywood using glue or nails. Nails MAY NOT be used in the design of the pillar. To facilitate the mounting of the pillar, competitors may bevel the sides or create notches in the construction area of the plywood base and platform.

  4. When the plywood base and platform are mounted in the horizontal plane, the vertical height of the pillar from the top of the base to the top of the platform must be 45 cm 1 cm, measured on the perpendicular from the plywood base.

  5. Make certain that the area on the platform where the operational load is placed is clear of any popsicle sticks.

  6. All teams must provide the judges with a predicted "operational load value" for their pillar. The operational load value is the maximum weight you think your pillar can hold for at least 5 seconds. This value should be clearly written on a piece of paper and sealed inside an envelope with the team name on front. This "operational value" must be kept confidential until the actual time of testing for your pillar. Once the pillar and predicted load has been submitted to the judges, no changes may be made to the pillar or predicted value.


  1. Each pillar must meet the construction requirements of this event.

  2. The pillar with the greatest prediction (operational load value) that successfully holds that predicted load for at least 5 seconds would be declared the winner.

  3. Teams will not be allowed to touch their pillar once the judges have declared that construction time is up, nor will they be allowed contact with their pillar before or during weight testing.

  4. Judges will be responsible for placing and removing the correct weight values on each pillar.

  5. In the event of a tie, the most aesthetically pleasing pillar will be the winner.

Things to Talk About

  • How is weight distributed? Civil engineers are required to design and build structures that may be required to withstand enormous amounts of weight. What sorts of techniques can be used to make structures stronger?

  • What kind of every day buildings and structures use the same techniques as the ones use in the pillar building contest?

  • Joints - how are materials connected together?

  • Distribution of forces throughout the structure.