Physics and Astronomy

Displacement Dragster
Displacement Dragster

To construct a vehicle that is powered exclusively by balloons.

PurposeTo explore energy and motion with the goal of obtaining a maximum displacement.
ParticipantsTeams of up to six.
MaterialsThe vehicle must be constructed from the following list of materials:
- plastic straws
- plastic beverage containers
- wooden cooking skewers
- wheels [any material - no prefabricated units]
- ROUND balloons
- tape / glue / paint
- paper

There is no requirement to use everything on the list and there is no restriction on the quantity of each item listed. The vehicle must have been built by the team entering it. The reference "no prefabricated units" for the wheels means you can not use wheels that are manufactured (i.e. wheels from a toy, wheels from rollerblades, wheels from a cart, etc.). You must "build" your own wheel from raw materials (i.e. old CDs, plastic container lids, cut them from a sheet of plywood , etc.). We strongly encourage innovation.

  1. The vehicle, with the balloons deflated, must be no larger than 35 cm x 35 cm x 20 cm.
  2. Before a run is made the circumference of the balloon will be measured. The circumference can be no larger than 1 meter. You may use only 1 balloon for your vehicle but must have your own back-up balloons in case of accidental explosion
  3. Each vehicle will be allowed 2 runs,with the largest displacement counted. The runs will be made in listed order. This will give each team an appropriate amount of time to make any adjustments and prepare the car for its second run. Missed runs will be given a score of zero.
  4. The vehicle must self-start and must not be given any initial impulse or have any external guidance at the start, or during, the race.
  5. All the energy used to propel the vehicle must come from the balloon. The balloon cannot be treated with chemicals, heated or cooled in any way.
  6. Balloons will not be provided. Each team should come prepared with "backup balloons" in case any damage is incurred during transport, or on the vehicle's first run.
  7. Vehicles will start with their foremost structure on the indicated start line with the displacement being measured from the start line to the closest portion of the vehicle after the run is complete.
  8. The race will be over once a vehicle stops completely; however should a vehicle fail to self-start, the run will be given a score of zero.
  9. Vehicles judged unsafe or hazardous will be disqualified.
Judging1. Points will be given according to a comparison of the maximum and minimum displacements obtained on the race day.
2. Points will be awarded for the visual design of the vehicle. The design must be reflective of the participant's school [ex. colours, mascot, home town peculiarities]. The points for this will be awarded according to the design's rank in comparison to the competition.
3. Bonus points may be awarded for an especially innovative technical design
4. To check that all vehicles meet the size criteria they will be placed into a container that has the inside dimensions of 35 cm x 35 cm x 20 cm. If the vehicle does not fit it will be disqualified.
SourceRichard Tamminga Saunders Secondary School

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