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 2020 competition will be held on Friday,  17 April 2020 on the Iowa State University campus in the atrium of Howe Hall. Teams of two to six students are desirable, but more team members are allowed.

Below are links related to  the 2020 competition.

The Roller Coaster Competition Introductory Video was prepared by Urbandale High School students in 2019 and provides information particularly useful to teams of students who have not previously participated in the roller coaster competition.

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 2020 Rube Goldberg challenge is  “turn a page”.  Teams have broad latitude to determine how they want to accomplish this challenge and are encouraged to be creative in the design of their roller coaster. The size of the roller coaster is limited 3 feet long by 2 feet wide by 3 feet high.  The length of time the ball/balls need to move from the beginning point to the ending point of the roller coaster and achieve the Rube Goldberg challenge to have the Technical score doubled (up to 70 points) is between 27 and 33 seconds.

The Judges Scoring Form will be used during the competition and provides information about how each area of the competition will be judged. This information about what the judges will be look is provided to help teams prepare for the competition.

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 2020.  However, please register your team as soon as you have decided on team members.    If team members and their advisor would like a T-shirt, the cost will be $10.00 per person and the size should be indicated in the entry form.  Lunch of two pieces of Pizza and and a soft drink or water is also available for purchase at $3.00 per person. T-shirts and lunches should be ordered at the same time as registration, Please note that  purchase of T-shirts and lunch is not required.  . Teams are requested to bring payment  for T-shirts and food to the competition, (checks should be made payable to Tau Beta Pi).

The Student Participation and Parental Permission Agreement needs to be signed by every participant, as well as the parent or guardian of each participant under 18 years of age. The forms need to be turned in at the registration desk the morning of the competition.

The roller coaster drop-off is at the loading dock on the west side of Howe Hall. (See Map).  Since the parking lot adjacent to Howe Hall is reserved for faculty and staff, other vehicles are prohibited from parking there.  We have. therefore, made arrangements with the Collegiate Methodist Church, 2622 West Lincoln Way, for cars to be parked in the parking lot on the south side of their church.    

The team registration and T-Shirt order deadline is 1 April 2019.  The design for this year’s T-shirt will be available later.

Seniors who participate in the roller coaster competition and attend Iowa State University majoring in Engineering Fall semester 2020 will be eligible to fill out an application to be considered for a $500 scholarship!  The deadline for submission of the scholarship application is 1 May 2020.

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

If you have any further questions, please contact the Tau Beta Pi Project Officers (

Results of the 2019 Roller Coaster Competition are as follows

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


The 2019 winning roller coaster Bi Bi Bi was from Urbandale High School in Des Moines, Iowa.






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