Caterpillar Machines Play Giant Jenga
April 17, 2014

Caterpillar Machines Play Giant Jenga

Caterpillar Inc. has created a gigantic game of Jenga using 27 wooden blocks weighing 272 KG each. The tower is first constructed by different varieties of their industrial machines, and then the same five machines are used to carefully remove bricks, the forks and grippers of the impressive construction equipment acting like the pincers of giant alien hands. All can be seen in the video, including the eventual thunderous collapse.

The machines gently (as far as gentleness is possible for such motorized monsters) push and prod the bricks out from one side, usually the middle brick of a layer as with regular games, and then slide them out. As Mashable points out, the downfall comes when two blocks are removed from the base, “a rookie move.” A rookie move for Jenga experts it certainly is, but possibly a very shrewd move on the part of Caterpillar. The video is basically an advertisement for their equipment, and the timing of the collapse means that in the nicely edited video, the end can come around the two minute and a half minute mark, without us missing any of the action, meaning the video is perfect for sharing and writing about, as I am doing now. This is an impressive piece of advertising creativity as well as displaying the notable versatility and accuracy of Caterpillar machines.

The page with the story on Mashable also gives us a bonus video of ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney playing Jenga at home and dithering around before watching a tower almost as tall as him come tumbling down. Obama would have taken victory with his eyes closed.

I also saw some Caterpillars dancing on Japanese TV recently; three in a row doing a routine, of sorts, along with a J-Pop song. Although the choreographed moves were all done in synch, it wasn’t as impressive as the Jenga, I have to say. Maybe the machines should stick to rough and tumble boys’ stuff rather than the arts.

As a bonus, here are some fascinating facts on Jenga: the game was invented by Leslie Scott, a British national who spent much of her life in Ghana, West Africa, and Jenga means “to build” in Swahili. She introduced the game to the world in the early 1980s, since when it has sold over 50 million worldwide.

The current Jenga record for most levels is 40.3. This was achieved by the Eta Beta Alpha Phi Omega fraternity at Simpson College, Iowa. Doesn’t sound all that impressive on paper, but when you think that that means the original starting number of eighteen levels has been more than doubled, all the time removing bricks and beginning new layers, it is pretty remarkable.

As for Caterpillar, they promise to bring us more of this sort of thing in a series of short films called “Built For It™” of which the giant Jenga game was the first. The films will show us just what their big machines can do, which from this spectacular start is quite a lot.

Image Credit: Caterpillar

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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