STICK FIGURES. Trevor Schlack ’19, Alex King ’19, Patrick Bedard ’19, and Beatrice Barrar ’20 gather around their massive chalk creation.  

STICK FIGURES. Trevor Schlack ’19, Alex King ’19, Patrick Bedard ’19, and Beatrice Barrar ’20 gather around their massive chalk creation.


Chalk and Awe

Reed students create a gargantuan stick of chalk, possibly the biggest on record.

By Gabriel Zinn ’15 | March 23, 2018

Dust off the record books—four Reed science majors have created what they believe to be the world’s biggest stick of chalk.

The cylindrical behemoth—a veritable chalk ness monster—is the size and shape of a 55-gallon trash can (in fact it currently resides in one), and weighs approximately 250 pounds. It has a creamy white color and its face is emblazoned in glitter with the phrase “Mad Sci”—the name of the theme dorm where its creators live.

This white whale was fabricated in January, as part of a Paideia class on chalk called “Chock Full of Chalk Talk” led by physics majors Patrick Bedard ’19, neuroscience major Alexander King ’19, and physics majors Trevor Schlack ’19 and Beatrice Barrar ’20. The process of making chalk is not complicated; just combine plaster and water. A stick of this magnitude, however, required that the group buy out Home Depot’s entire stock of plaster, 125 pounds total. To this, they added 14 gallons of water, and stirred the resulting mixture in a classroom in Vollum. Lugging their epic creation back to the dorm was apparently quite the Odyssey.

Patrick and his co-conspirators actually made their first stick of chalk three years ago as a going-away present for Prof. Daniel Borrero [physics 2014–16]. Inspired by that original, oversized creation, they went on to found the Paideia class, where they made writing instruments and casts of fingers and hands; this year they decided to shoot for the moon.

After a high-school education marked by the drudgery of dry erase markers, Patrick was first struck by the wonders of chalk when he arrived at Reed. The simple elegance of chalk, alongside the giant blackboards beloved by Reed’s physics professors, was like a breath of fresh chalk dust. What are the wonders of chalk, you may ask? “First of all, aesthetically, it’s obviously superior,” says Patrick. His fellow devotees also pointed out that when using chalk you always know exactly how much you have left, and that chalk does not leave behind empty canisters (naturally occurring chalk is composed of the empty shells of microörganisms called coccolithophores), and thus is better for the environment.

The students have not yet written anything with this giant stylograph—they are currently awaiting certification from the Guinness Book of World Records—but are confident that their chalk will easily erase the competition.

Until then, you can color us amazed.

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