Wheeled Vehicle

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Wheeled Vehicle
Engineering & Build Event
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Wheeled Vehicle is 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 as chosen by the event supervisor as fast, as straight, 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.

At the competition, the event supervisor will announce a track distance between 7 and 11 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 7 and 11 meters and stay inside a 1.00 meter wide lane.
  • All energy used to propel the vehicle must be stored in a non-metallic, elastic device.
  • The distance between the front and back axles must not exceed 70 cm.
  • The width of the vehicle must not exceed 30 cm.
  • 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 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 two main parts of your design will be the energy 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 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 our 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.


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. The vehicle must be impounded before competition starts, and the event supervisor may not announce the target distance until the last vehicle is impounded. As said earlier, the competition will be in a 1.0 m wide lane and will be on a relatively smooth level corridor. You will have a total of 8 minutes to run your vehicle. You will be able to trigger your vehicle once the supervisor indicates you may do so.

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