Balsa, iPods, Pizza, and Glory!

On Thursday, February 16th, multiple teams of Engineering Fundamentals students will compete in the Second Annual Balsawood Design Competition in the Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science department.

Between 1 and 4 pm, each team of two students will have 20 minutes to build a balsa structure to provide maximum crushing protection for a ping-pong ball. Once all the teams have built their structures, testing of the structures will be held concurrently with a pizza party from 4-6 pm.

Prizes include Apple iPods and pen drives; there will also be a random drawing for an additional iPod.

Last year's event was a great success. The actual competition "crush-off" featured a dizzying variety of designs, from seat-of-the-pants boxy structures using a contestant's entire allotment of balsa, to sparse, ultralight frames built from carefully-scaled drawings.

Each design was compressed in a testing machine that gradually increased the weight until failure occurred. The crush-off was conducted in a nearby engineering lab, and webcast to the pizza party.

For details on the competition, see the full announcement. To register your team, email Darla O'Neill at

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