The Real Paul Jones

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OM – Among the Balsa Builders

Paul, · Categories: General

Note: improved version of this article with pictures can be found on

No problem group at Odyssey of the Mind touches people as deeply as the Structure or Building problem — as our Geek Dad Commentors remind us. We spent this morning among the young builders picking up on secrets that have been passed down through dynasties of balsa builders.

This year’s problem is called Out of the Box Balsa:

The team’s problem is to design, build, and test a structure made of balsa wood and glue that will balance and support weights. The team is allowed to use materials other than balsa wood and glue to assemble the parts of the structure. The structure will be designed to fit completely inside a box that is smaller than the assembled structure. When competition time begins, the team will remove the parts and assembly materials from the box, creatively assemble its structure, and test it by placing weights onto it.
Cost limit: $125 USD.

There are some interesting aspects to this problem if you think out of the box. One team did today and their structure which weighed in at less than 18 grams held 1050 pounds! Even so that team may not be the winner; a team from Arkansas was rumored (only one source and he from Arkansas) to have held 1452 pounds at their state competition. That Arkansas team will be up tomorrow.

The inside the box balsa tips are:

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