Giant Chalk Inches Closer To Glory

Massive stick of calcium sulphate is officially measured for possible world record.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | March 1, 2019

Reed’s giant stick of chalk inched closer to international notoriety Friday as professional surveyors took official measurements to determine whether it belongs in the record books.

Prexy bustled with anticipation as approximately two dozen students and observers—including Acting President Hugh Porter—crowded into the basement to witness the momentous occasion. A hush fell over the room as the two surveyors, Tim Tye and John Brady of Compass Land Surveyors, sized up the gargantuan stylus with their professional eye.

“We’ve never worked on a project quite like this before,” admitted Tye.

The chalk was created in January by a team of two dozen students who worked frantically to pour buckets of plaster and water into a construction sonotube in the short span of time before the mixture hardened. They then waited several weeks for the chalk to settle and cure before attempting to measure it.

To verify that the stick was indeed made of chalk (and not some other material), neuroscience major Alex King ’19 took a dark gray brick in his hands and rubbed it against the lip of the chalk. He brandished the brick above his head to reveal a persuasive white line that prompted a low gasp of approval from the assembled onlookers.

Then the surveyors worked their way around the cylindrical behemoth, and the atmosphere grew tense. In order to break the record, the chalk would have to exceed benchmark dimensions laid down by authorities from Guinness World Records: a height of 180 cm (or 5 feet 11 inches) and a diameter of 60 cm (23 and 5/8 inches). As the surveyors took measurements, it became apparent that the stick would come very close to these parameters.

After several minutes and some anxious muttering, Tye pronounced the surveyors’ verdict:

  • Height: 6 feet and one quarter of an inch
  • Diameter: 24 inches exactly
  • Circumference: 6 feet and three and five-eighths inches

The results provoked a hopeful cheer from the crowd. If the measurements hold up, the stick will join the record books by a height margin of one and a quarter inches and a diameter margin of three eighths of an inch.

Students involved in the attempt were: Alex King, Segovia Garcia, Beatrice Barrar, Trevor Schlack, Patrick Bedard, Addison Gwynn, Callie Burns, Gianmatteo Martinez, Grayson Perez, Henry Scheffer, Owen Young, Sophie Bender, Caroline Padula, Rafael Sampaio, Anthony Hill, Dante Hickey, A. Tamar Conner, Matthew Atteberry, Kacey Ottenbacher, Peter Cherepanov, Ariel Flaster, Connie Pullan, Miles Woo, Ilana Kim, Fiona Battistoni, Liam Ryan-O’Flaherty, Tayla Isensee, Perry Chan, and Gabriela Bailey.

Official witnesses were Mai Lon Brosseau ’85, Nadine Fiedler ’89, Kilong Ung ’87, Katherine Kornei, Ardys Dunn, and Marvin Dunn.

The future of the chalk remains murky. (Or should that be dusty?) The stick is so heavy that students have not yet succeeded in hefting it up onto a scale, but based on its composition and volume, they estimate its weight at 1300 to 1400 pounds. Getting it out of the basement of Prexy and into a new home will require a significant feat of engineering. “We’ve talked about cutting it into pieces,” said physics major Beatrice Barrar ’20. “We might also work it onto some car jacks, put it on a dolly, and get it into the elevator. Or possibly just try to lug it upstairs.”

First, however, students will send the paperwork to Guinness and cross their fingers as they anxiously await certification; the process can take 12-16 weeks.

Tags: Awards & Achievements, Campus Life, Cool Projects, Students