Roller Coaster

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Roller Coaster

Type Physics
Category Build
Event Information
Latest Appearance 2017
Forum Threads

Roller Coaster is a Division B event that is set to rotate in for the 2018 season, replacing 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.



The roller coaster must be on a flat base. The maximum dimensions of the base are 1 meter by .6 meters (60 centimeters). The roller coaster may not extend past the base. Also, the whole device(minus the 'train') cannot exceed 1 meter in height.


The track can be made of anything except for commercially sold tracks such as Hot Wheels. You have to be able to lift the 'vehicle' off the tracks in a direction perpendicular to the direction it is traveling at any point. For example, you could not use a pipe as your track, as you cannot access the train from any perpendicular direction in that case. Tall walls are allowed, however, as long as they follow the rule just mentioned. The track may have an unlimited number of gaps, up to 5 of which 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 you like, so choose wisely. 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.

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 25 and 45 seconds, in varying intervals (at higher levels, the allowed intervals are smaller). 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 will then have to adjust their devices to the target time during their 8 minute testing period.


You can use foam pipe insulation cut in half as the track. Then you can elevate it using wood dowels, attaching it to your 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 you're not hitting the time target, try increasing or decreasing the weight of your train. Another method would be, similarly, PVC pipe cut in half with joints, though it would be harder to make turns. Those aren't the only methods, though- feel free to try things out on your own and find out what method works best for you!


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. Teams with construction or competition violations, or teams who missed impound, are ranked in lower tiers (specified by the rules).

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