I am the master at Jenga. I most recently discovered that while playing Giant Jenga with my friends from the Norman Topping Scholarship on campus. However, I was no match for a friend of mine who is a Civil Engineering major. I went head to head against several worthy opponents but met my match when I went up against him. I am an Electrical Engineering major so I definitely felt that he had the knowledge base to defeat me but thought it wouldn’t matter since it was just a giant version of a game I would always win. I went in with confidence but, as expected, he was victorious. After 20 minutes of making the tower 2 feet taller, I pulled out the wrong block and saw my undefeated streak collapse before my eyes.
My friend, Hector, proceeded to give me a lesson about structural engineering that I would like to share with you all. I assure you, you will never play Jenga the same way again. Although it may be sort of intuitive, it is nice to have it explained to you scientifically.
No two Jenga blocks are cut in the exact same dimensions. This means that the blocks rest on eachother unevenly and some might be bearing more load than others. If the block is easy to take out, then it is not bearing a large load of the weight. In industry, engineers consider the Load Path from the top of the structure to the base of it to see how the weight is distributed through the internal structures carrying the load. This is also why you want to play on a sturdy table that will transfer the load of your Jenga tower onto the ground.
The way I lost was by trying to ruin his next move and remove a block from the foundation of the Jenga tower. I was trying to leave it all balancing on one narrow block but it only worked to my disadvantage and fell. He said to me that I ruined the towers rotational equilibrium. By making the support narrow, I increased the building rotational force and dropped it. Conversely, when you widen the foundation of a structure, you give to it a lesser “moment” and prevent it from falling over.
He also spoke about compression, tension, tensile strength, and earthquake forces but at that point I remembered he beat me and was too disappointed to listen. Apparently, he absorbed very much in the course of three years at SC. I am sure he will be successful in Industry and future Jenga challenges alike.
Jenga is awesome and it is embedding engineering concepts on the minds of millions of kids world-wide! Creating Structural Engineers, one game at a time.
Thanks for reading and Fight On!