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Open House

Engineering Design Competitions



Sponsored by: The Society of Women Engineers Section at ODU

Objective: To create a plane like object made completely out of the following waste materials:  aluminum foil, 16-20 oz plastic bottles (including bottle cap), cardboard, popsicle sticks, and duck tape.


·         All 5 of the materials must be present in some manner on your plane.

·         The plane must be made prior to attending the Engineering Open House.

·         The plane must resemble an actual airplane, i.e. have 2 wings, a nose, and a tail.

·         The plane cannot weigh more than 2 pounds.

·         The objective is to recycle your waste materials, so please, no newly bought materials.

·         Be creative and HAVE FUN!


·         Participants will be divided into 3 groups for judging by Elementary School, Middle School, and High School aged divisions.

·         The farthest distance traveled by the plane from the starting line to the first touch on the ground will be the winner. 

·         Participants will have ONLY 3 throws to get the furthest.

·         1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards will be given in each of the 3 groups.


·         All planes weighing more than 2 pounds will not be judged.

·         Any planes containing materials other than the 5 specified materials will not be judged.



The Baby Baja Rally is a competition that challenges high school students individually or as a team to build a miniature all-terrain vehicle capable of traversing sand dunes, water, and logs. This competition is intended to reward imagination, ingenuity and teamwork.

The car should typically be small, no more than 12 inches in length, with 3 or 4 wheels, 1 or 2 of which are powered by the motor.  No steering is needed.  Remote controls are not allowed.  The track will have an upward high coefficient friction slope of about 20 degrees.  About 8 dowels of 1 inch in diameter and spread 1 inch apart will be immersed in partial sand on the flat part of the track.  The vehicle also needs to overcome a downward slope of about 45 degrees followed by a 20 inch long sand/water dune of 1 inch in depth.  The total length of the track is about 152 inches.


  1. Energy and power supplies will be limited to one Radio Shack* 1.5 - 3.0 volt DC motor (Part # 273223) and two Radio Shack* AA batteries (Part # 23-557).  You may also use a gear box from Radio Shack*.
  2. Absolutely NO commercial model kits, pre-assembled vehicles, or portions of model kits or pre-assembled vehicles will be allowed.  (Exception will be made for the vehicle's wheels, but more points are awarded for making your own).
  3. ORIGINALITY is the most heavily weighted judging criteria.  Points will be given for creative use of common household items.
  4. Must be built before arriving to the college.  Minor fixes/repairs are permitted prior to competing.
  5. Must have 4 wheels capable of going through sand/dirt and which raise the body of the vehicle off of the ground at least 2 to 2.5 inches or more.
  6. No additional energy sources are permitted to provide power to the wheels.
  7. The motor may not be taken apart or altered in any way.
  8. The contest allows for two runs, and the best time will be taken.  (Remember that time is only 15% of the scoring.)
  9. The entire vehicle should cross the finish line, without breaking apart, in order to score for finishing the course.  However, in the event the car does not cross the finish line, and/or breaks apart, the judges may award some performance points depending on distance traveled and the degree to which car remains intact.
  10. All decisions of the judges are final.


  1. Baja is big about suspension, so a baby Baja...*hint hint*
  2. Test run your baby Baja at home in a sand box or on rough terrain.
  3. Learn more about torque and apply it to your design.
  4. Make your wheels something that has friction.
  5. Be creative!

- Mechanical Design:

  • Originality 30%
  • Chassis Design 10%

- Performance:

  • Time 15%
  • Stability 10%
  • Course Completion 5%

- Physical Properties:

  • Weight 20%
  • Appearance 10%

* Radio Shack product information is provided to ensure consistency and standardization of vehicle equipment between competitors and is in no way an endorsement of the vendor.


Construct an apparatus that will allow an uncooked egg to survive a 25-foot freefall intact.  The design of the apparatus should emphasize the mechanical principles of energy absorption.  This competition is open to middle school and high school students.


  1. Entries may be constructed of any material, except those listed in rule #5.
  2. Exclusive use of commercially available energy absorbing materials such as Styrofoam, etc. is discouraged.  Emphasis should be on mechanical means
  3. Students may work in groups to submit a design. Only one design per group may be entered
  4. All eggs will be supplied by the competition staff on the day of the event just prior to the individual drops.
  5. Aerodynamic entries (parachutes, balloons, etc.) are not permitted.

Winners will be determined by the following criteria:

  • Condition of egg after drop (successful/unsuccessful)
  • Weight of design (lightest)
  • Closeness to the center of the target


Participants will use their ingenuity to craft a boat from their own design.  Each participant will be judged on how long it takes his/her boat to traverse the distance of a channel (approximately 10 feet).  The boat with the fastest time will win.  The racecourse will be a channel of at least 7 inches wide by 4 inches high by 12 inches long.  Boats may be no wider than 6 inches.  The depth of the water will be approximately 3 inches.  There will be a separate competition for high schools and middle schools.


  1. Each participant must provide his/her own materials including glue, one AA battery, and paint.
  2. A single AA battery must be used as the sole power source.
  3. Motors may be of the participant's choice.  Suggested motors from Radio Shack* are 1.5-3 volt DC motors either part numbers 278-223 or 273-258.
  4. Contestant must be present at race time to participate in the contest.
  5. It is recommended that boats be made as light as possible.
  6. Boats CANNOT be pushed at the start of the race.

* Radio Shack product information is provided to ensure consistency and standardization of vehicle equipment between competitors and is in no way an endorsement of the vendor.


Various Creative and Estimating Exercises (No prior preparation required).


The object of this contest is to construct a 12 inch long model bridge from a given amount of balsa wood. This model will be tested to destruction to determine its load-carrying capacity as related to its weight when subjected to a single loading.  There will be separate competitions for high schools and middle schools.

All contestants must use the official material kits available from Old Dominion University. The cost of the kits is $4.00. Kits can be picked up from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Old Dominion University, Room 231, Kaufman Hall, 683-3741.

  1. Only one materials kit may be used to construct each model.
  2. The wood cannot be treated or painted in any way. Such treatment would alter the strength characteristics of the wood.
  3. The model must be completely assembled when submitted for testing.
  4. The panel of judges will determine the final decision on all questions.
  5. Any number of people may work on a single entry.
  6. All entries will indicate the name, school, and grade of each participant responsible for entry construction.
  7. Entries will be disqualified if materials other than those furnished in the kit are used. Wood glue and "super" (ACC) glue are not allowed.
  8. The design of the bridge must accommodate the test load apparatus. Loading will be applied to a 2" x 3" plate placed on the roadbed in the center of the span. A 1" x 1" x 3" (tall) block will transmit the load to the roadbed plate. Any construction above the roadbed should allow the block to pass through an opening in the center of the bridge. Any construction below the bridge must be less than 1".
  9. The bridge MUST be configured as a truss. If the materials are glued together as a "log" in any form, the entry will be disqualified.


  • The model will be loaded until failure.
  • Failure is defined as a permanent decrease in the load carrying capacity.
  • The load will be applied to the roadbed and a minimum of 50 lbs must be carried.

Length: 12 inches
Min. width: 3 inches
Max. height: 4 inches

The model that demonstrates the highest efficiency ratio well be declared the best entry.  The efficiency ratio refers to the amount of weight that the bridge holds at the point it fails (i.e. breaks) divided by the weight of the bridge. For example if two bridges both fail when loaded with 150 pounds of weight and bridge #1 weighs 50 grams and bridge #2 weighs 75 grams the efficiency ratios would be:

Bridge #1 Efficiency Ratio = 150 lbs/50 grams = 3 lbs/gram
Bridge #2 Efficiency Ratio = 150 lbs/75 grams = 2 lbs/gram

You can see from these calculations that bridge #1 has the higher efficiency ratio and consequently would be a higher rated bridge than bridge #2. At the end of the competition the bridge with the highest ratio in each division (high school and middle school) will be declared the winner.


A sheet of 8½ by 11 inch copy paper will be furnished to participants who will immediately create an airplane which will be flight-tested for distance. Participants are encouraged to research, build, and test effective designs before the event. Pre-constructed entries will not be allowed.


Each person or team is to design, sketch, and completely describe a "morphing" PPV.  A PPV is a vehicle that can travel equally as well on the highway and in the air.  It only can carry one passenger.  When it is on the highway, it resembles an auto.  When it is flying in the air, it resembles a small airplane.  Your design should be able to convert (morph) from one configuration to another.

Each person or team will deliver an Oral PowerPoint presentation of up to ten minutes completely describing (including sketches) the control systems (GPS, steering for auto, directional for aircraft - including rudder, aileron, elevator, etc.); propulsion (engine for both auto and aircraft) system; morphing features; and safety features (including anti-collision) of their PPV.  High-quality sketches are required and attention to details is mandatory.


  1. Energy Efficient - you should use the latest technology to conserve fuel
  2. Aerodynamic - your design should be streamlined to reduce drag and maximize fuel savings
  3. Affordable - your design should not use expensive materials or technologies that would result in the cost being greater than $50,000 per vehicle
  4. Aesthetically Pleasing - Looks desirable to the eye
  5. Reasonable Size - Must be consistent (on the highway, in parking lots etc.) with existing autos


A Rube Goldberg machine is a complex device that humorously performs a simple task in an indirect manner. A more complete definition of a Rube Goldberg machine, background and how to build a Rube Goldberg machine can be found at: http://www.anl.gov/Careers/Education/rube/rube.html.   Additional information can be found at: http://www.rube-goldberg.com/.


  1. The final task the machine must complete is pouring an 8 oz. Styrofoam cup of water (half-full) into a container placed 4 inches below the bottom of the cup.
  2. The machine must be no larger than 6 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft.
  3. The machine must have a minimum of ten steps. There is no maximum number of steps.
  4. The machine must run for no more than one minute per run.
  5. The machine will have a maximum five minute reset time.
  6. NO corporate logos or names may be displayed on the machine.
  7. No live animals may be used in the machine.
  8. The machine must not imply profane, indecent, or lewd expressions.
  9. Any loose or flying objects must remain within the set boundaries of the machine. This includes, but is not limited to, drops of water, slivers of balloon, and other small objects. Steam and other gasses are exempt from this rule.
  10. The machine may utilize one power cord.  No other cords may be run to or from the machine.
  11. No flames may be used in the machine.  No hazardous materials or explosives can be used in the machine.
  12. The machine must be safe to the satisfaction of Open House officials. The contest coordinator must approve any questionable items prior to competition.
  13. Any destructive action against another machine is grounds for disqualification.


Teams composed of three are more members will compete in several activities and the points awarded in each activity will be summed in order to determine the winning team. The activities include: Engineering Obstacle Course, Orienteering, Ring Glider Toss, and Tallest Freestanding Building.  These activities are described below.

Engineering Obstacle Course
The Engineering Obstacle Course consists of a series of physical and mental engineering-related activities that will be performed consecutively as quickly as possible.  The total time to complete all activities will be recorded.  Activities may require critical thinking and simple, creative, and rapid solutions to routine problems.

A compass and a set of directions will be furnished to participants. Following the directions (distance and compass direction for each step in directions), participants will obtain clues at several manned stations and the person with the shortest elapsed time to complete the course will be the winner.

Ring Glider Toss

Tallest Freestanding Building
Miscellaneous materials will be furnished to participants who will immediately have 20 minutes to create the tallest freestanding building possible.