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 2018 competition will be held on in Thursday, 12 April 2018 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.

Image1Below are links to several documents for the 2018 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 2018.  However, please register your team as soon as you have decided on team members.   The 2018 Rube Goldberg challenge is  “To ring a bell”.  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 mail in the total amount of money for T-shirts and food to the following address (checks should be made payable to Tau Beta Pi):

Tau Beta Pi
Roller Coaster Competition
1300 Marston Hall
Iowa State University 
Ames, IA  50011 


Please note that the size of the Roller Coaster has reduced to 3 feet long by 2 feet wide by 3 feet high, in order to make construction and transport easier.   With the smaller size of the roller coaster the length of time the ball needs to move from the beginning point to the ending point to have the Technical score doubled (up to 70 points) is now between 27 and 33 seconds.

The team registration and T-Shirt order deadline is 1 April 2018.  The design for this year’s T-shirt will be made available closer to the event:

The 2018 Rube-Goldberg challenge is to “To ring a bell”.  Teams are encourage to be creative in how they accomplish the Rube-Goldberg challenge.

We look forward to seeing you at the competition.

Seniors who participate in the roller coaster competition who are attending Iowa State University majoring in Engineering Fall semester 2018 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 May 1, 2018.

  • Entry Form
  • Roller Coaster Rules  (pdf)
  • Judges Form  (pdf)
  • Scholarship Application  (pdf)
  • Past Rube-Goldberg Challenges (pdf)
  • Roller Coaster Drop-off and Parking (pdf)