Balsa Towers

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Learners work in groups to design and build a tower out of balsa wood. As a motivator, they can compete to build a tower with the highest strength-to-weight ratio. Learners draw structurally sound 2D designs in the first part of the activity, then use those designs to construct the 3D structure. This activity is best used as a part of a larger lesson or after other building activities. Time for activity can be split over multiple meetings.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Markers
  • Large sheets of paper (Butcher paper will work)
  • Quick drying Epoxy glue (90 second or 5 minute)
  • 1/4 x 1/4 inch balsa wood strips
  • 1/8 inch balsa wood sheets
  • Dremel tool (optional)
  • Rulers
  • Utility Knives (for students, if possible, otherwise one for the teacher)
  • Newspaper (to glue on)
  • Scrap wood (to cut on)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
      • Solid Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Center of Gravity
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Devereaux, Kelly ; Burnham, Benjamin

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2013