Roller Coaster Family Fun Competition


Iowa Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi 

Roller Coaster Family Fun Competition 

 With the closure of Iowa State University to on campus students, as well as, closure of middle schools and high schools in Iowa, our traditional Roller Coaster Competition has had to be cancelled for 2020. In its place we would like to hold a video competition instead.

Our Roller Coaster Family Fun Competition is intended for middle school and high school students who have an interest in mathematics, physics and engineering who are confined to their homes during the coming weeks..  The competition involves designing a roller coaster that allows a marble, ball bearing or other type of ball to go from a start point to an end point while performing a number of tasks that demonstrate physics concepts and complete a Rube Goldberg challenge “to turn a page”.

The Roller Coaster should be free-standing and use materials found in the home. Extra credit will be given the entries that do not to use prefabricated toys such as hot wheels or any other type of track, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos or K’Nex to create the functional roller coaster.

The type of physics concepts to be incorporated include but are not limited to:

    • Means of propulsion; gravity, spring, rubber band, mousetrap, etc
    • Simple machine: pulley, lever, wheel and axle
    • Magnet: a magnet causes a reaction or transports the ball
    • Lift:  a ball is lifted finishing higher than it starts
    • Corkscrew: a ball undergoes a corkscrew motion (horizontal loop)
    • Chain Reaction: a chain reaction between two or more balls takes place
    • Airborne: a ball becomes purposely airborne
    • Loop: a ball performs a vertical (upside-down) loop without falling off

To participate in the competition videos of the working roller coaster should be uploaded to either YouTube or Google Drive and shared with via E-mail. The E-mail should include the name, grade level and school of the participating students, the title of the rollercoaster, and information about the operation of the roller coaster.  The deadline for submitting videos is Friday, 17 April 2020.  Judging of the rollercoasters will take place shortly after 17 April and the winners selected will be posted on this website and informed by E-mail.

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 scholarship application (pdf) should be submitted by  1 May 2020.

For more information: contact the Iowa Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi by E-mailing:

Winners of Competition:

    • Cassandra Swacker – Best High School Submission
    • Brody Roth, Tate Osterhaus, and Gavin Pienkowski – Best Middle School Submission
    • Anna, Jacob, Clare, and Natalie Tallman – Most Creative Submission
    • Lilah and Celia Forbes – Best Teamwork