Students will build the tallest tower with the smallest footprint.



Working in teams of 3–4, students will design and build the tallest tower possible with the smallest footprint.

    • Each team gets 48 Jenga wooden blocks. Teams are not required to use all of their blocks.
    • Each tower must be at least 3 feet (1 meter) high.
    • The width-to-height ratio of each tower will be calculated.
    • Each team will receive 10 minutes to plan their designs. They can also think of a team name  to write on their chart. During this time, teams should think about how tall they want to make their tower and how wide it will need to be.
    • Each tower will be measured for height and width (at the base). This information will be recorded on a chart.
    • Participants should also think about the pros and cons of different building designs, like triangular, square, and so on.
    • Teams must draw a sketch of what they plan to build, and think about where to place and connect each block.
    • Teams will receive 20 minutes to build their towers. During the build time, teams must circulate and observe each team’s plan and teamwork. Teams will be interviewed and photographed, by a sideline reporter.Each tower will be evaluated. Students will measure the widest part of the base and the tower’s height. They will calculate the width-to-height ratio and record the data on their data chart.
    • Each team will post their data to a class data form that will announce each team’s results.
    • Teams will share highlights of their construction & observations of other team designs.


Footprint: The area taken up by a building’s base.

Slenderness ratio: The ratio of a skyscraper’s width to its height. Engineers consider buildings “slender” if they have a width-to- height ratio of at least 1:10 or 1:12.

  • Why did you build your tower the way you did? If you had additional time, how would you modify your tower design?
  • What materials would you have liked to use to help your team with this challenge?
  • What might be some advantages to a slenderer tower design?
  • What additional variables would an engineer have to consider when designing a skyscraper?
  • Why is it important for engineers to consider the width-to-height ratio when designing buildings?
  • What forces acting on your design did your team take into account when constructing your building?
  • How many post and lintel’s (if any) are included in your design? how does this help to balance your structure?  What are the benefits to adding post and lintel’s? what are some disadvantages?

ENGINEERING CONNECTIONS (source Home Insurance Building, built in Chicago in 1885, is considered to be the first modern American skyscraper. It was the first building to feature a steel frame construction. Although it was a marvel in its time, it would be dwarfed by today’s skyscrapers. Even though engineers still rely on steel and concrete for these massive buildings, a combination of creativity and technology have led to many developments in the design and materials of modern skyscrapers.

Modern tastes and space restrictions demand that engineers develop towers that are taller than ever before, while also being attractive and innovative, to fit in with the existing urban environment while safely withstanding wind and other forces. In addition to all of those considerations, engineers must balance the need for state-of-the-art materials with the constraints of a given budget.

The building above stands 75-stories high, this masterpiece is destined to sprout in the heart of Hong Kong.

Talk about a challenge! As a result, engineers have modified traditional designs and materials to produce ever-evolving building types that take into account aerodynamics and functionality. As towers become increasingly slender, various features must be added to strengthen the structure against the forces of high winds and to diminish or disperse wind resistance.


Imagine carrying a friend on your shoulders. Supporting your weight and your friend’s weight would be hard, but doable. Now imagine there is also a person on your friend’s shoulders—you would have a tower made of three people. How would that feel? Heavy and unstable! Cheerleaders know how to make this work. They build a human pyramid to provide stability and to support the weight of the people at the top. Skyscrapers work the same way. They are usually widest at the base, which helps to distribute their weight over a larger area and make them more stable.


Activity created by Carnegie Science Center for the American Society of Civil Engineers. The materials used for our BSEA challenge was different from the original design of this challenge. To carry out this challenge as designed by the Dream Big Activities please go to