Roller Coaster

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Roller Coaster
Physics & Build Event
Forum Threads 2019 2018 2017
There are no tests available for this event
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There are no question marathons for this event
Division B Champion Bedford Middle School
This event was not held recently in Division C

Roller Coaster is a Division B for the 2018 season, which replaced Mission Possible. It was previously a trial event in many states, as well as at the 2017 National Tournament and 2015 National Tournament. The objective of the event is to design and build a roller coaster, using spherical vehicles, to travel the track as close as possible to a target time between 20 and 45 seconds.



The roller coaster must be within these dimensions: 50 cm length × 50 cm width × 60 cm height.


The track can be made of anything except for commercially sold tracks such as Hot Wheels. Teams must be able to lift the 'vehicle' off the tracks in a direction perpendicular to the direction it is traveling at any point. This means that tracks may not be closed off. For example, a pipe would not be a viable track, as the train is not accessible from any perpendicular direction in that case. This rule includes funnels. Tall walls are allowed, however, as long as they follow the rule just stated. The track may have an unlimited number of gaps, of which 5 can count toward the gap bonus. In order to qualify, the gap must have a horizontal span of 5 cm and the vehicle must be unsupported. These gaps must be labeled.


The vehicle can be any spherical object. Some possible items include marbles or ping-pong balls. Different objects will move along the same track at different speeds and may be otherwise affected - for example, some vehicles may require a steeper slope to begin moving. The vehicle, if not passing through a gap, must be traveling on the track at all times (e.g, it can't bounce off of the track).

Time Target and Other Construction Rules

The roller coaster must be designed so that the vehicles can complete the track in a variable amount of time. The target time is a specific time between 10 and 60 seconds (2019), in varying intervals (5s for regional, 2s for state, and 1s intervals for national) The event supervisors at the tournament will choose a target time and tell it to each team as they begin their 8 minute testing period. The target time should be the same for all teams. Teams must adjust their devices to the target time during their 8 minute testing period.


paper roller coaster

A foam pipe insulation cut in half can be used as the track. It can then be elevated using wood dowels, attaching it to the base with hot glue, super glue, wood glue, nails, etc. In this method, a good train would be a marble or other small, round object. If the time target is not being achieved, try increasing or decreasing the weight of the train. Another method would be, similarly, PVC pipe cut in half with joints, though it would be harder to make turns.

These are not the only methods. Feel free to try things out on your own and find out what method works best for you!

Here is one made out of paper.


The event supervisors will announce the target time to each team at the start of their 8 minute testing period. The event supervisor will also measure the team's device before testing - this does not count toward the 8 minute testing period. Each team is allowed up to two runs, which must start within their testing period.


A team's score is determined from their single best run. A run's score is calculated based on the height of the device, the accuracy of the run (closeness to the Target Time), and the Gap Bonus. The way the current rules are written, more points can be gained through the gap bonus than through any other method, making gaps extremely importnat. Teams with construction or competition violations, or teams who missed impound, are ranked in lower tiers (specified by the rules). Failed runs will receive a score of zero, but will be ranked above teams with violations.

Helpful Links

Trial Event rules used for 2016 from
A picture of a rollercoaster, found on the National SO website
An example score sheet, also from
Paper Roller Coaster Company is now selling kits specifically designed for 2018 S.O. rules. Look for "Science Olympiad Roller Coaster Kit"

2017 National Tournament Trial Events

Division B: Roller Coaster · Rotor Egg Drop | Division C: Indoor Bottle Rocket · Electric Wright Stuff

2015 National Tournament Trial Events

Division B: Science Bowl · Sumo Bots · Roller Coaster · GPS | Division C: Science Bowl · Game On · Endangered, Exotic, and Extinct · Hydrogeology