Can you build a ball ramp out of just paper and tape? How can you make the ball’s path take as many seconds as possible to complete?
MileStone Academy’s STEM Teacher, Ms. Sheila Appel, has been teaching MileStone students how to apply the engineering design process to develop slow ball runs. The engineering design process is a series of steps that guides engineering teams as we solve problems. The design process is iterative, meaning that we repeat the steps as many times as needed, making improvements along the way as we learn from failure and uncover new design possibilities to arrive at great solutions.
Our STEM class has entered to compete in the 2022 Fluor Engineering Challenge for K-12 Students. K-12 students around the world are invited to take part in the Fluor Engineering Challenge…for free! The challenge is designed as a fun, hands-on engineering project for the classroom, at home, or as part of a community event. Students may build and test their paper ball runs anytime now through March 20, 2022.
This competition is a wonderful chance for MileStone’s STEM class to earn $1,000 for our school! All prizes are awarded based on random drawings. Every team entry that follows all the challenge rules and comes from an eligible location will be entered into a random prize drawing for that location. In total, Fluor Corporation is providing ten $1,000 USD prizes. If we win, the prizes will be distributed directly to our school.
Objective of the Fluor Engineering Challenge
The goal of the Fluor Engineering Challenge is to build a ball run from paper and tape, but there is a twist! The intention is to make your ball run as slow as possible.
Materials and Tools Needed
To get started, the following materials and tools are needed:
Paper (maximum 30 sheets). Printer, construction, graph, and notebook paper are allowed (letter or A4 size; 9″ x 12″ or 22 x 30-cm construction paper also allowed). Cardstock and newspapers are not allowed.
Tape (maximum one roll), maximum 1″ (2.5 cm) wide. Clear office tape (e.g. Scotch®), masking, and painter’s tape are allowed. Double-sided tape, duct tape, and packing tape are not allowed.
Flat surface, such as floor, table, or countertop.
Tape measure or meter stick
Ping pong balls
The aim of the challenge is to build a ball run that takes as long as possible for the ball to get from the entrance to the exit of the run.
The run must stand on a flat horizontal surface like the floor or a table/countertop/desk/piece of cardboard. It can be taped to this surface. It cannot be taped to or supported by anything else (the ceiling, walls, furniture, a person, etc.).
The run must have both an entrance point and an exit point for the ball. The entrance point is where the ball is placed into the run. It must be at least 10 inches (25 cm) above the supporting surface. The exit point is where the ball exits the run. It must be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the surface.
The ball cannot be modified in any way or have anything attached to it.
The ball must be gently placed into the run to start. It cannot be dropped from above the run, thrown, flicked, etc.
Time starts when the ball is placed in the run and ends when the ball exits the run.
After the ball has entered the run, you cannot touch the ball or the run, or influence their motion in any way (e.g., by blowing on the ball, shaking the table, or tilting the run, etc.).
If the ball gets stuck in the run, you must remove the ball and start over. A ball is considered stuck if it does not move for more than 10 seconds.
Before you start building anything, it is a good idea to brainstorm different designs. Try sketching your designs out on paper (paper used for sketching does not count toward the total used to build your ball run). Remember that there is a potential trade-off in your design. Your score depends on both how long it takes the ball to travel through your ball run and how much paper you use. While it will make the ball take longer if you make your ball run taller or add more obstacles to slow the ball down, it will also use more paper. Can you use paper efficiently to make your ball run take as long as possible? Note that you can cut the paper, but the amount of paper you use is rounded up to the nearest whole sheet.
Once you have decided on a design, it is time to start building. You might want to build your ball run from the bottom up, testing different sections as you built it to make sure the ball does not get stuck and making sure the ball run does not collapse. Your design might not work as you planned, and this is OK! Engineers do not always get things right on the first try. If your ball run does not work like you thought it would, you can modify it or even go “back to the drawing board” and start over with a new design. Only paper used in your final design counts when calculating your score.
When you have completed your ball run, test it by gently placing the ping pong ball in the entrance, then letting go. Watch the ball to see if it makes it all the way to the exit of the ball without getting stuck for more than 10 seconds. What do you observe? Are there places where you can add or change things to slow the ball down even more? When you are done testing, make sure you count the total number of sheets of paper used in your final design.
When you are ready to do the official test, follow these steps:
Get your stopwatch ready. A volunteer can help with this step.
Place the ball in the ball run. Start the stopwatch as soon as you let go of the ball.
Watch the ball carefully. Stop the stopwatch as soon as the ball exits the ball run.
Calculate your score using this equation:
Final Score = (4 x time in seconds) – (number of sheets of paper)
The number of sheets of paper is equal to the number used in your final design, rounded up to the nearest whole sheet. Paper used in earlier prototypes or for sketches does not count.
If your ball run takes more than one minute, you will need to convert from minutes to seconds before calculating your score. You can do so using this equation:
Total time in seconds = (60 x number of minutes) + (number of seconds)
For example, a time of 1 minute and 30 seconds (1:30) is 60×1 + 30 = 90 seconds.
You can also use this worksheet to calculate your score.
You can repeat the official test as many times as you would like in order to get a higher score, but you can only submit one score per team.
Show Your Support!
We would love to receive your support to help us win this year’s Fluor Challenge! We are accepting donations to help fund the materials needed to participate in this competition. If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Appel at firstname.lastname@example.org).