Introduction to the Structure Challenge

The main object of every structure challenge is for the team to build a structure (or structures) to a certain specification and to test that structure (or structures) at the tournament on a structure tester. The specifications and scoring may change each year but the basic principle remains - you have to build a structure that supports weight.

If you are new to the structure challenge then you may have never seen a structure tester. Here are a couple of pictures of a structure tester. Photos were taken during the challenge It's Not Impastable. The first photo shows the tester base alone and the second shows the tester base with a structure, pressure board and a few weights.

In the first photo notice four white 4" x 4" posts at the corners. These are safety posts designed to keep the weight stack from falling more than a few inches when the structure being tested fails. There are plastic safety shields installed over the four sides of the tester. These shields keep pieces of the structure from flying out when the structure fails. Note the pipe extending from the middle of the tester base. This is a safety pipe over which the weights are placed. Its purpose is to keep the weight stack from tipping over when the the structure fails.

In the second photograph you can see the black pressure board sitting on top of the pasta structure. The pressure board is always the first "weight" placed on the structure. Olympic style weights are then placed on top of the pressure board.

If you look around you can find ideas about what structures look like. Here are some photos from my area. Two are from a local theme park and one is of an electrical tower that is in a field near my house.

Oil Derrick @ 6 Flags

Titan Roller Coaster
@ 6 Flags


There are common elements in each of these structures. There are vertical or almost vertical pieces extending from the ground to the top (columns) that are designed to hold weight and there are pieces less than are less than vertical that do not contact the ground but run between the columns (braces).