Wheeled Vehicle

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Wheeled Vehicle
Engineering & Build Event
Forum Threads 2015 2014
There are no tests available for this event
Images Image Gallery
There are no question marathons for this event
Division B Champion Ladue Middle School
This event was not held last year in Division C

Wheeled Vehicle was a physics event in which students must construct a vehicle powered only by a non-metallic elastic solid device. The participants must be able to adjust the vehicle to travel a specified distance around an obstacle as chosen by the event supervisor as fast and as accurately as possible.

Event Description

Prior to the event, competitors must design, build, and test a vehicle which is only powered by a non-metallic, elastic material that can store potential energy. This potential energy is stored (for example streching a rubber band) and then released to make the vehicle move from the kinetic energy.

The point of this event is to avoid an obstacle and stop at the correct distance while going as fast as possible.

At the competition, the event supervisor will announce a track distance between 9 and 12 meters after impound is complete. The exact distance will be in different intervals for different levels of competition (see below). Competitors will be given a total time of 8 minutes to set up their vehicle and give it two runs. The vehicle must be triggered by actuating a release mechanism with a pencil supplied by the event supervisor.

Basic Construction Parameters

  • The vehicle should be designed to travel between 9 and 12 meters.
  • All energy used to propel the vehicle must be stored in a non-metallic, elastic device.
  • All wheels must fit in a ready to run configuration in a 25.0 cm x 60.0 cm space (no height restriction).
  • The vehicle must have a 1/4 inch wooden dowel attached to the front of the vehicle. This dowel serves as a measurement point for distance to the line, and also a method to trigger the photogate system (if used by the event supervisor).
  • The vehicle must be started by a vertically-actuated trigger.

The calibration intervals include: Regionals: 1.00 meter (100 cm) States: 0.50 meters (50 cm) Nationals: 0.10 meters (10 cm)

For more detailed rule clarifications see:[1]


The three main parts of your design will be the energy mechanism, the turning mechanism, and the braking system.

Body design is also important-do you want a lightweight, easy to move car, or perhaps something in the middle that won't do a wheelie as easily, or maybe something ridiculously heavy, powered by a very strong elastic solid? Most teams choose to go as light as possible. Try to find ways to shave down weight where you can.

Elastic Energy Mechanisms

Some of the popular energy mechanisms are:

  • rubber bands
  • fishing poles
  • carbon fiber poles
  • bungee cords

These can be harnessed in many ways, such as a string wrapped around an axle, and the elastic unwrapping the string.

Braking Mechanism

You will need a braking mechanism, so you can accurately stop. Here are some things to think about:

  1. It has got to be accurate, and adjustable on-site, when you hear the distance of the track
  2. Somewhat simple so that there's not a whole lot of room for error
  3. It has to be very reliable, so that it will work perfectly every time

Braking systems are almost always built differently by each team to accommodate their vehicle. There are systems that you can easily adapt to your device. (Scrambler, Mousetrap Vehicle, and many other SO events include similar braking concepts.)

With this laid out, we know what we want and we can start designing a mechanism. There are many different kinds of popular mechanisms, but there are many other designs you can come up with on your own.

Threaded Rod and Nut

One of the mechanisms commonly used on a vehicle is the threaded rod and nut design. It has been used by many in Scrambler and Wheeled Vehicle, and is usually very reliable. The details of how you build it and how you implement it is up to you, but the general idea will be discussed. First off, you need a threaded rod and a nut (preferably a wing nut) and something to hold the nut. So first off, we need to know how many revolutions of the wheel it will take for us to reach 10 meters. We do this by using the formula for the circumference of a circle, which in this case is the wheel: C=pi*diameter(of the wheel). After figuring that out (in cm), divide 1000 by the circumference and you will know the amount of revolutions of the wheel you will need to reach the maximum distance.

Here is a picture of a braking mechanism: [2]

First, start by looking at the blue line which in this case is our axle (which is the threaded rod). The red line represents the wing nut, the green circles represent the wheels, and the green line is the rod that holds the wing nut in place. As the wheels and axle spin, the wingnut will move down towards the chassis between the wheel and the inner assembly. Eventually, this nut will hit the chassis and lock up the axle, preventing the car from traveling more. In order to use this system for calibration, all you would have to do is start the nut on the chassis and then wind it out to the distance you need thinking about how much distance you get per turn of the wheel. You can easily figure this out using the formula above. AS you might have figured out, there is one minor flaw in doing this: you cannot turn the wing nut until you move that green rod in the diagram to make it removable.

Turning Mechanism

For the turning mechanism, there are a few options. Some will probably work better than others. One strategy was to go over the can, but and FAQ was recently posted on the official Science Olympiad website disallowing this. Another option is to have your vehicle naturally turn one direction, the aim it the opposite way. For this method, you could attach one of the axles so it's not parallel to the other. There are certainly other ways of accomplishing this task, though.


For the competition, you need to wear goggles, and you may also bring any tools or computing device to assist you in calculating distance/time. Note that the rules prohibit the use of electronic devices except calculators (e.g. you cannot use laser pointers). The vehicle must be impounded before competition starts, and the event supervisor may not announce the target distance until the last vehicle is impounded. The competition will be on a relatively smooth, level corridor. You will have a total of 8 minutes to run your vehicle twice. However, if you run out of time, you will not get more for a second (or first) run. You will be able to trigger your vehicle once the supervisor indicates you may do so. Do not chase after your vehicle; this will result in a Competition Violation. Go get it when the event supervisor tells you to.

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