Questions may be sent to

Q(Robot): Can the control module be connected to the robot or does the robot have to be remotely controlled?
A: The “controls” can be mounted anywhere as long as they are not on moving parts. Operator actions must be limited to “operating” switches, buttons, etc. The operator cannot manually move any parts of the device once testing starts.

Q(Electric Motor): Can I route the power from the 1.5 Volt battery through a hand-constructed transformer to increase power or would that violate the spirit of the competition? A: No.

Q(Chemical Switch): Any suggestions on which chemicals to use in the chemical switch?
A: Sample ideas: Students may use gas-producing reactions(Vinegar and Baking Soda) and harness the gas to turn the light bulb off. A wire in the circuitry may be dipped in acid, which will react with the wire and eventually break the circuit. An iodine clock reaction may be used to trigger a switch.

Q(Rubber Band Powered Vehicle): Can a car be made completely from a Connects set or a Lego set?
A: Yes. Commercially assembled vehicles are not permitted; however, commercially manufactured components may be used as parts of the vehicle.

Q(Wacky Wonder Works): A student is using a pump to release air into an air cylinder which pushes a plunger out. One teacher says that the air is never compressed because the pressure is released as the plunger moves. Another teacher thinks the air pump violates “no compressed gases rule.” What is the official interpretation?
A: This is acceptable as long as compression of the air does not create a projectile or explosive condition within the device.

Q(Ping Pong Ball Launcher): There are two different ping-pong ball sizes. 38 and 40 mm. Which size is being used?
A: Design for both. The standard is moving towards 40mm but chances are a mix of old and new may be used.
Q(Ping Pong Ball Launcher ):Is the student able to hold the launcher arm down with his own hand or must it be held with another device that is then released by the student?
A: Yes. The student can use their hand to secure it, but remember that the launcher’s aim and force will vary with the student’s strength, position and timing.

Q(Toothpick Bridge): Can you please answer two question that have come up as my students build toothpick bridges? * Can they use Gorilla Glue? * Can they use Tite Bond 3 Wood Glue? 2nd Q: I noticed in the rules for the toothpick bridge, that the glue must be WHITE carpenter’s wood glue.  I was only able to find a yellow colored Elmer’s carpenter’s wood glue.  Is this acceptable?
A: Gorilla Glue is not allowed.  The main factors for future consideration is:
1) The name or description of the glue states that it is “wood glue”.
2) That the toothpicks are not “coated” or “dipped”.
As a rule of thumb the judges look for clean surface area of 50% on each and every toothpick.

Q(Toothpick Bridge): Is it okay if the testing eyebolt screw runs through or sticks up into the road bed in the midst of the PVC pipe opening? A: Yes, it is. The skeletal frame of the bridge should be large enough to be able to slide the pvc pipe into the bridge from either end.  It is okay for the testing eye bolt to block passage of the pipe all the way through the bridge as long as the eye bolt and block meet competition specifications.

Q(Robot): Can a 9-volt battery be used in a remote controller in addition to the 6-volt “lantern” battery to power the robot?
A: The 9 volt battery is acceptable if only used in a remote control system and does not directly power the mechanism of the robot.

Q(Robot):Can a circuit board which he removed from an old toy in his efforts to make the robot work?
A: “Pre-manufactured subassemblies such as computer or controller modules will not be permitted, except a keyboard subassembly with no more than 12 keys and/or game/toy joysticks will be allowed.” Judges may use discretion in the case that the circuit board is recycled for material and does not present an advantage in how it is used. When in doubt request clarification from a judge through

Q(Registration): I have a group of 3 students wanting to enter this year’s competition. They are in high school. Do they have to have a teacher attend with them?  If so, does it have to be a “teacher’ or could it be a parent.  Also, is there a minimum? Can we just bring this one small group of 3?    A: All students will need an adult sponsor.  It doesn’t matter if the sponsor is a teacher or a parent.  Any amount of participants are welcome per the current rules for each event.  Just keep in mind the sponsor information is what is used to send the prize money and certificates to students.

Q(Robot):Are students allowed to use lego mindstorm components to build their robot?  Or anything similar to that?  A:My interpretation of the rules is that Lego Mindstrom components are acceptable.  I think the most controversial component would be the Lego motor assembly with its attached feedback sensor, but I believe that is within the sprit of the “motors and other electromechanical actuators may be of toy or hobbyist types readily available from local retail stores.”  I also do not see any problem with allowing the use of the Mindstrom NEXT  micro-controller brick .  In addition, the rules state “powered only be non-rechargeable dry cell batteries”.  Mindstorms have provision for using rechargeable batteries.  I see no problem with allowing the rechargeable batteries if someone shows up with them, as long as they do not exceed the 6 volt limit.

Q (Bridge): Is the mass of the load block part of the 12 oz maximum weight limit?”  A: Yes, the loading block is included in the weight of the bridge.  1/18/2013

Q (Electric Motor): I am unclear on just what the difference is for the high school students regarding the electric motor.  A: I’ll give you a brief answer, but please ask for more information from us if this does not answer your question. We have defined motors in 3 categories A, B and C:  A being the most complex and difficult to build and C is very simple to construct but the students usually have only a vague concept of why and how it works.  Upper division (grades 9-12) may enter A motors only, Middle division (grades 7-8) may enter A or B motors, and Lower division (grades 6 and under) may enter A, B, or C motors and the C motors are judged in a separate class for the Lower division.

Internet searches on YouTube, Google and in Wikipedia using the modifying terms “homopolar” and “Beakman” with “electric motor ” should produce more information and illustrations.

The category C motor is also called “homopolar” and generally consist of a metallic cylindrical permanent magnet attracted to a small screw acting as a pivot or axis of rotation.  The screw point is magnetically attracted to one of the battery terminals and the electrical circuit is completed with a wire from the other battery terminal to the outer rim of the circular magnet.  Very simple to construct but hard to understand why it rotates and how to optimize its performance.

The category B motor is also called a “Beakman” and generally consists of several loops  (or turns in motor lingo) of “enameled” (thin electrical insulating paint-like coating) wire with the ends jutting out to form the axle or axis of rotation.  Wires with a J-shaped end to support the loop and axle are attached to each terminal of the battery.  A permanent magnet(s) usually magnetically attracted to the battery case  and near the loop complete the construction.  The performance depends on the student’s understanding of where and how to to remove the enamel insulation form the wire and other form factors.  It is quite simple to build but requires  more skill and understanding than the category C motor.

The category A motor is constructed from basic materials and has a clearly identifiable magnetic field structure, an armature structure with electrical conductors connected to the  battery source through a switching device and a mechanical shaft output device that could be connected to a load to produce useful work.  There are many configurations, but generally looks like what one thinks of when visualizing a useful electrical motor.  This category takes more understanding of the motor principles and is more complex and challenging to build. 2/4/2014

Q (Electric Motor): I have a parent email with a great question about the Electric Motor for the 6th graders.   “The rules seem to contradict themselves on the battery to be used. In the material specs, it states it has to be a single D cell in size. Max voltage is 4 volts; a D cell is 1.5 volts. In the competition specs it states, “only single cell’ batteries’”. Then it states that the “batteries” may not be connected in paralleled. It doesn’t say anything about connecting ” Batteries” in series. With that said, can we connect 2aa batteries in series to achieve 3 volts ?” A: The “D” size defines the physical size and shape of the battery, not the voltage.  Voltage is determined by the battery chemistry.  You are correct that the traditional alkaline battery, in D and other sizes such as AAA, AA, B and C are nominally 1.5 volts.  We changed the rules when other battery chemistries became readily available.  Lithium batteries with voltages between 3 and 4 volts per cell are now commonly available in th A, B, C, D sizes as well as special packages for everything from cell phones, laptop computers and electric vehicles, even airplanes as in the recent episode with battery fires on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  We wanted to give the students latitude  to explore these aspect of batteries as well as electric motor theory.
The rules do limit the battery to a single cell.  While a single cell lithium based battery may have a voltage approaching 4 volts, the alkaline single cell battery will have only about 1.5 volts available.  Connecting cells in series is not permitted.  One cell only. The 2 AA cells in series is not allowed even though the voltage is less than 4 volts. 1/14/2014

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