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North State Shasta Odyssey of the Mind presents the

Balsa wood structure challenge

at the 2018

Pre-register to secure a spot and receive a prize!

Registration link is at the bottom of this page. Please read the requirements carefully prior to registering.

When: Sept. 15, 2018  Crushing Demonstrations begin at 2pm

Where: Shasta District Fairgrounds 

Who: Individual students or teams of students ages K-12

What: Build a tower out of balsa wood that can hold as                 much weight as possible!

Specifications and requirements

In A Nutshell

The Structure:

  • must be made of only balsa wood & glue

  • must meet weight the requirement

  • must be a minimum of 8" tall

  • must have an opening running through it's height of greater than 2" in diameter

The Glue:

  • It must be a commercial brand that has the word “glue,” “epoxy,” “cement,” or “adhesive” printed by the manufacturer on the tube, container, box, or accompanying material. More than one type of glue may be used.

  • It must be used as purchased. That is, nothing may be added to it, nor may it be mixed with anything unless the manufacturer specifies that the ingredients, sold together, combine to form the glue.

  • Must only be used to adhere pieces of balsa wood together to form a single, interconnected structure. 


The Balsa wood: 

  • Must come from only commercially produced strips of balsa wood. No other type of wood or any variation of balsa wood may be used. Balsa wood may be purchased through Amazon.

  • Must come from strips with a cross section of 1/8” x 1/8” that are at least 36” (0.91m) long when the team receives it.

  • Must have a 1/8” wide x 1/8” deep (0.32 cm x 0.32 cm) cross section for most of its length. Some commercial cuts vary, so the maximum allowed of either dimension is actually .135” (0.33 cm), which is slightly greater than 1/8”. Every piece of wood used in the structure must have this cross section when tested. Participants may sand or carve pieces of wood in small areas as long as it has a 1/8” x 1/8” cross section for most of its length.


Balsa Tower7.jpg.1347419533742.jpg

weight limitations

The structure must not weigh more than as follows:

  • K-5th: 20 grams

  • 6th-8th: 18 grams

  • 9th-12th: 15 grams

Age group is determined by oldest member of the team

The fine print...


The Structure:

  • Must be a single solution that is designed and built by the individual or team members only without any adult influence. Odyssey of the Mind is a "Kids hands-on, Adults hands-off" program. For this challenge we ask that participants adhere to this principle.

  • All pieces of balsa wood must be interconnected. 

  • Is not allowed to be strengthened by any means other than its design. That is, nothing else is allowed to be part of the structure and nothing may be added to the balsa wood to enhance its strength.

  •  Must be a minimum of 8” (20.32 cm) in height when resting on the Tester base and supporting the Crusher Board and another weight. Extension pieces used to meet minimum height limitations but not to support weight are not allowed.

  • Must be completely within the boundary of the Tester base without touching the corner supports of the Tester.

  • Must have an open area running the entire height that will accept a column that is 2” (5.1 cm) in diameter. Therefore, the opening in the structure must be greater than 2”. This will be measured at weigh-in. The safety pipe must be in the opening of the structure during weight placement. Refer to photo above.

Questions? Contact Julie at

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