Roller Coaster Competition

RollerCoasterLogoThe Iowa Alpha Chapter at Iowa State University has hosted a roller coaster competition for middle and high school students since 2001. Marc Hermon, an Urbandale High School teacher, started this competition in order to reach out to high school students who have an interest in mathematics, physics and engineering. The competition gives students an opportunity to apply theory to a project that is both fun and challenging.

The 2019 competition will be held on in Friday, 12 April 2019 on the Iowa State University campus. Teams of two to six students are desirable, but more team members are allowed. On the day of the event, participants may bring their own lunch if they choose; however, pizza and a soft drink or water will be provided at a cost of $3.00 for two slices of pizza and one drink. In addition, t-shirts can be ordered in advance for $10.00.

The picture to the left is the 2019 winning roller coaster Bi Bi Bi from Urbandale High School.




Below are links to several documents for the 2019 competition that are available for download.  The roller coaster rules document provides information and insight into the nature of the competition and should answer most of the questions that you may have. The third document listed is the judges scoring form. This form will be the one used during the competition, so it should be used to your advantage. If you have any further questions, please contact the Tau Beta Pi Project Officers (

The online Entry Form should be used to register teams for the Roller Coaster Competition.  Registration for the competition is free.  The deadline for registration is 1 April 2019.  However, please register your team as soon as you have decided on team members.   The 2019 Rube Goldberg challenge is  “to raise a flag”.  Teams have broad latitude to determine how they want to accomplish this challenge.  If team members would like a T-shirt, the cost will be $10.00 per person.  If your team has an adult sponsor or advisor, they may also purchase a T-shirt for $10.00. However, purchase of T-shirts is not required.  T-shirts should be ordered at the same time as registration. Teams are requested to bring payment  for T-shirts and food to the competition, (checks should be made payable to Tau Beta Pi).

Student Participation and Parental Permission Agreement for signature by every participant as well as the parent or guardian of each participant under 18 years of age. 

The size of the Roller Coaster is 3 feet long by 2 feet wide by 3 feet high, in order to make construction and transport easy.   The length of time the ball/balls need to move from the beginning point to the ending point of the rollercoaster to have the Technical score doubled (up to 70 points) is between 27 and 33 seconds.

The team registration and T-Shirt order deadline is 29 March 2019.  The design for this year’s T-shirt is:

The 2019 Rube-Goldberg challenge is “to raise a Flag”.  Teams are encouraged to be creative in how they accomplish the Rube-Goldberg challenge.

Te results of the competition were:

Placing School Team
1st Place Overall Urbandale High School Bi Bi Bi
2nd Place Overall Montezuma Middle School Mario Brothers
3rd Place Overall Urbandale High School The Bad Lobsters
3rd Place High School Urbandale High School Los Hombres
2nd Place Middle School CAM Middle School Roof Runners
3rd Place Middle School Clive Learning Academy Donkey Kong
Honorable Mention for Excellence in Presentation Montezuma Middle School Harry Potter
Honorable Mention for Excellence in Technical Skill Urbandale High School U Raise the Flag
Honorable Mention for Excellence in Theme Berg Middle School Spider-man

Seniors who participate in the roller coaster competition who are attending Iowa State University majoring in Engineering Fall semester 2019 will be eligible to fill out an application to be considered for a $500 scholarship!  The deadline for submission of the scholarship application will be 1 May 2019.

  • Roller Coaster Competition Introductory Video
  • Roller Coaster Competition Entry Form
  • Student Participation and Parental Permission Agreement (pdf)
  • Roller Coaster Rules  (pdf)
  • Judges Form  (pdf)
  • Scholarship Application  (pdf)
  • Past Rube-Goldberg Challenges (pdf)
  • Roller Coaster Drop-off and Parking (pdf)



The Picture to the left is the team Spider-man from the Berg Middle School in Newton, Iowa, which received the 2019 award for Excellence  in Theme.