Delaware Students Build Tallest Structure

Guinness World Record verified by total station technology

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It stands at 112 feet and 11¾-inches tall, establishing a new world record for a tower constructed with interlocking plastic bricks, aka Legos.

Brick by small plastic brick, the students of Delaware’s Red Clay School Consolidated District diligently snapped together each Lego section of the new Guinness World Record setter, toppling the previous tower’s record of 106 feet. The prior record-holding Lego tower was built in Prague in 2012.

Every year, the Red Clay Consolidated School District creates a "theme" for the first few months of school, said Assistant Superintendent Ted Ammann, who spearheaded the tower project.

Because the district is embarking on a multimilliondollar construction and renovation campaign, it made sense to the district administrators to make the theme for the kick off of the year about construction… building something.

"We thought, `Hey, wouldn’t it be great to do something with Legos?’ And then we started talking about trying to break the record for the tallest structure," Ammann said. "We knew it was going to be a huge task, but I knew we were up to it."

Nearly every student in the district contributed to building the tower–from the brainiacs, cool kids, underachievers, sports stars, special education students, teachers’ pets, and the troublemakers all added to the effort. The toy bricks were pieced together in sections by students over several months, then those sections were stacked by multiple different companies who volunteered to help out. The companies constructed the tower around a metal cylinder and used tension cables to keep it from tipping over. The finished tower weighed nearly a ton.

Every one of the 28 schools in the Red Clay Consolidated School District–grammar, middle school, high school and special needs–contributed sections. Collecting the more than 500,000 toy bricks needed was a feat onto itself with students, parents, teachers, district administrators, as well as companies and organizations in the community all contributing to the "brick drive." After months of work in classrooms across the district and a few days of painstaking constructing provided by multiple companies, the stacks of LEGO bricks were pieced together to create the 11-story tower that loomed high over John Dickinson High School outside of Wilmington.

The district wanted to make certain the 10-story effort would be recognized by Guinness World Records as the tallest Lego tower, which meant they needed to follow the many strict rules Guinness has for establishing a new record. This meant the structure must be free-standing and constructed only from standard bricks available at stores. Also, no adhesives could be used.

"Record Adjudication" is the verification process Guinness World Records undertakes to confirm whether a world record has been achieved. A record adjudicator is the official Guinness World Records judge who performs the verification. By its own claim, Guinness World Records has become the "undisputed universally recognized authority on record-breaking achievement."

"It was critical to the district and the Guinness World Records adjudicator that the height of the tower be measured exactly, which is why we were called in," stated Adam W. Jones, PLS (Professional Land Surveyor) with the Becker Morgan Group, Dover, Delaware. "We used the Topcon QS in reflectorless mode to measure slope distance and vertical angle."

"The QS is among our most accurate survey measurement technology we have available," stated Nina DiCarlo East, sales manager with DiCarlo Precision Instrument, Salisbury, Maryland.

According to Topcon, the QS Quick Station Robotic Total Station features the most advanced technology available and represents its eighth generation of robotic instrumentation optics.

"To determine the accuracy of our measurement, we first established elevation on several control points by differential leveling, holding the tower base at zero elevation," Jones said. "These control points were set around 300 feet in a T shape with the tower base being at the intersection. Then from each control point we measured a reference point just shy of the tower top. Then computed and compared heights."

Jones continued: "The measurements did not deviate more than 0.01-feet, which is what we expected. This was all done to allow us to give the Guinness official and the hundreds of spectators a final height with confidence as soon as the last piece was set in place. So, there was just a little pressure for us, but with the Topcon QS3A we measured and calculated the exact height within a minute."

After completing the tower height measurement the Guinness official was provided with a measurements and calculations sheet the Becker Morgan Group created to document the final Lego tower height result and how it was computed.

"This is really extraordinary. Usually these records are set by Lego itself or by a country," stated Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Superintendent Mervin Daugherty. "We did it with students and with a community. We did it together."

Daugherty concluded: "We want kids to get a message from this… One kid alone could never put this together. But when we all work together, when we’re all a team, we can do something that people probably thought would be impossible."

And the official certificate from the Guinness World Records record adjudicator that was presented on August 19, 2013 to Delaware’s Red Clay Consolidated School District documents that the students’ cooperative efforts had really done it…. they established a new world record for tallest structure built from interlocking plastic bricks, which we call Legos!

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through

A 1.806Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE