Science Olympiad Tower

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This tower was 24 inches tall, 6 inches wide at the base, tapering to a 1 & 1/2 inch square at the middle. This tower weighed 7.0 grams, and held 11kg for 2nd place at the 2005 GA Science Olympiad State Finals.

I am in the middle of building a tower for my Science Olympiad competition this Saturday. In fact, I am truly in the middle. I am in the process of joining the two halves of my tower together, the bottom and top parts. I was asked recently about the best way to go about this. I responded that I wasn’t quite sure. I have heard of people making jigs, but I can’t think of how to make a jig for this.

However, I think I have a way that at least works. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that you must build a tower on a level spot. Here is my setup:

On my desk (which isn’t level), I have a sheet of graph paper. On it I have 5 dots. 4 of the dots mark the outside points of the base of my tower. The 5th dot is the dead center of those other dots.

Because my desk isn’t level, I put a strip of wood under two legs of my tower to make it level. Only one dimension of my desk wasn’t level, so I fixed that by adding a piece of wood under two legs. And yes, I did use a small level to make sure that it was now perfect.

Now I know that the bottom the base of my tower is level. Now I need to make sure that the top of the base is level. So I placed my loading block (one I bought from Pitsco) on top of the base to see if it was already level. It wasn’t.

So I began sanding. A little bit here, and a little bit there. I didn’t just so this randomly, but using the level I tried to see what leg was making the tower un-level and sand that one. I ended up sanding a little too much, so I had to sand another leg. Finally, I have the base of my tower perfectly level. Now the trick is the actual connection of the top part, and making sure the top is level.

One of these days I will take pictures of this setup to connect the two parts to a Science Olympiad tower. If you know of a better way, please enlighten the rest of us.

26 thoughts on “Science Olympiad Tower”

  1. Hey BG
    i am thinking about making one of these just for the fun of it i had a blast building my bridge and i was wondering if you could make a ‘5 steps to building a bridge tower version’

  2. FT, thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely look into writing a tower ebook. It probably won’t be any time soon, however. I am staying pretty busy in school right now. It might be a Christmas break project.

  3. GB i would not mind writing it if you just sent me some tips i could neaten it up in my writing classes at school as extra credit and i could find some info for you it would be fun.

  4. Hey Garret:

    This is a really nice design; I noticed that the base/main part (I’m not sure what to call it) is thicker than the members/trusses/bracing.

    What different sizes wood did you use? Thanks!

    • Wow, it must be a long time ago that I built this tower, because I cannot remember the answer to this question either. I know that I used bass for the legs in some towers, but I was also experimenting with balsa legs during this time. I don’t know for sure.

  5. Hello!
    I understand this is a very old thread but is very applicable to this year’s event, Towers, in Science Olympiad and thus I have a few questions:
    How tall were your bottom part and top parts?
    How did you build your top and bottom ie. your top built like a plank bridge or something? and your bottom I don’t even know how you were able to build it like that.
    Would you think that dropping everything but the main legs (thick non-bracing) to low density would bring efficiency up?
    And finally, is there a jig maker out there anywhere? I’ve been trying to find one as that makes everything more replicable and faster.
    Thank you so much!

  6. Dear Garrett, I am following a design very much like yours for my tower. I am currently building the lower half and I have put together the top square piece (2″x2″) and the larger bottom square piece (6″x6″). I will have to do this by connecting both pieces with 4 legs so that the lower half of the tower is 8″ long. I am having a very tough time doing this. Do you have any helpful tips? How did you assemble the lower half of your tower?

    • The assembly is definitely hard. I am pretty sure that I made two sides of the tower on a flat surface, and then somehow clamped them together with temporary bracing while I glued on the actual bracing. I didn’t have a jig.


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