Did They Just Make the World’s Biggest Stick of Chalk?

Reed students create six-foot-tall chalk monster in effort to break world record.

By Loralee Bandy ‘20 | January 30, 2019

A ragtag band of Reed students raced frantically against the clock on Saturday to break the record for the world's largest stick of chalk.

Their colossal monument, which weighs upwards of 1,000 pounds, is currently drying in the Prexy basement in a six-foot-tall, two-foot-wide sonotube designed for concrete pillars. Part of Paideia, the exploit was spearheaded by science majors Beatrice Barrar ’20, Patrick Bedard ’19, Trevor Schlack ’19, and Alex King ’19, together with roughly 20 co-conspirators who rushed to create the behemoth under a tight schedule dictated by the chemistry of the project. Plaster and water sets in less than 25 minutes; anything added after that could jeopardize the stick's structural integrity.

A quiet energy buzzed through the basement of Prexy as the project got underway. “World record attempt number one,” Alex said at 1:52 p.m.. The first five-gallon bucket of plaster and water tumbled into the sonotube two minutes later, roaring like a waterfall that echoed and rumbled throughout the silent room.

By 2:19 p.m., the 25-minute mark, the mixture had reached a height of five feet—just a foot short of the goal—but only six buckets of plaster remained. Ten minutes later, with three and a half inches to fill and the slurry beginning to harden, the plaster ran out. As the seconds ticked away, a small team dashed up Woodstock Boulevard to buy more bags of plaster from the hardware store.

“Clear the way fast, we need to hurry!” Beatrice exclaimed as the car returned twelve minutes later. With the last bucket, the sonotube overflowed, spilling onto the floor in a vivid demonstration that the chalk had indeed reached a height of six feet.

The creation will take about a month to dry before witnesses can perform official measurements, but the students are hopeful that it prove to be the world’s biggest. The current record of 270 pounds was set by high-school students in Pittsburgh in 2010. Beatrice, Patrick, Trevor, and Alex made a similar attempt last year, but the stick resulting from that effort weighed in at just 250 pounds.

Meanwhile, students hope the chalky goliath will go on display somewhere on campus. “I personally would love to see it displayed in any one of the different departments that we have here,” said Alex, a neuroscience major who’s writing his senior thesis on the multiomic analysis of genetically induced conditions using machine learning. “It would be nice to just have it presented, available for all to see.”

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