Design Challenge: Flying Car


The idea is simple: build a vehicle, release it down a ramp, and try to land it safely on the other side of the gap. It can’t be too big, it can’t be too expensive, and it can’t be too dangerous, but the rest is up to you and your imagination. Successful designs may get to compete in the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s ‘Fly Your Ride’ competition! Additional information, including samples, rules, & details are here.



This project assesses student understanding of PS2-2 (plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and on the mass of the object). Students plan and conduct their investigation by recording notes in their notebooks, and will show their understanding of this standard by submitting a project reflection.

County Competition Categories

Prizes are awarded to top cars in several categories:

  • Distance traveled Classic Style (vehicles release from top of ramp may not lose any components)
  • Distance traveled “Drop & Roll” (vehicles may intentionally lose mass during their travel)
  • Creativity in Design (special, new, or original design)
  • Creativity in Engineering (special, new, or original engineering)


Project Timeline

Phase 1 – Create Crew

  • You may choose to work individually or with a partner. However, all partnerships must be within the same period, requested via the Partner Request Form, & approved by your teacher and guardians.
  • Partner Request Form due by Friday, November 30

Phase 2 – Research and Rough Draft Blueprint

Phase 3 – Construction, Verification Testing and Modifications

  • Construct prototype, test, evaluate solution, modify design: December 5-13
  • This phase must be clearly and thoroughly documented in science notebooks

Phase 4 – Class Competition & Reflection

  • Students that successfully document Phase 3 compete in class on Friday, December 14
  • Following the class competition, students individually complete a Flying Car Reflection to demonstrate understanding of the Engineering Design Process and PS2-2, due 12/19 (p 1-2) or 12/20 (p 3-6)

Phase 5 – Competition Submission

  • Final Blueprint and application submitted to museum by 5pm,  January 29, 2019
  • Marshall teachers will collect these by period and submit them for you (TBD)

Phase 6 – Competition Practice

  • Accepted entries will be notified by February 19, 2019

Phase 7 – County Competition

  • Accepted entries compete at the San Diego Aerospace Museum:  Saturday, April 13, 2019


Vehicle Specifications

  • Majority of vehicle made from original materials of your own design
    • Cars should cost no more than $30, including donated items
    • 3D printed parts cannot be more than 20% of the total vehicle
    • Lego/Knex/other cannot be more than 50% of the total vehicle
    • NO model kits, pre-made cars, electric/solar/gas motors, flame source, NO liquids/chemicals
  • Vehicles cannot have internal electric power (such as a motor or remote control), gas power (compressed air), solar power, flames, moustraps, or chemical power (such as coke & mentos)
  • Internally-wound tensions (ie balloons, rubber bands, springs) are accepted but:
    • The ramp will not have a backboard so vehicles will not be able to “push” off anything
  • Teams may prepare their vehicle before releasing it at the top of the ramp
    • Such as winding a spring or blowing up a balloon
  • The vehicle cannot damage the ramp surface in anyway
    • Cannot spill anything (such as water)
    • Cannot dig into the ramp surface
  • For the Classic Category:
    • No item may be intentionally shed from vehicle
    • If part of the vehicle falls off during flight, it will be up to the judge discretion
  • For the Drop & Roll Category
    • Weights (like coin rolls) may fall out the back of the car before it ‘jumps’ the gap
    • Any item that is intentionally designed to be shed during launch must be declared prior to competition and must not damage the ramp surface
  • The majority of the car and all its wheels must make it across the gap, which widens each round
    • Landing, even overshooting, must be within the designated boundaries
    • Crews may have up to 4 minutes per round to make modifications to the vehicle

Vehicle Measurements

  • Core of vehicle limited to 16” x 8” x 5” (large shoebox)
    • Wheel and axles protrude no more than 2” (if vehicle is at maximum core size)
  • Additions to the car (ie wing-like protrusions) are accepted, but:
    • Cannot raise the overall height by more than 4”
    • Cannot extend further than the front, but out the back by up to 2”
    • Cannot extend more than 12” from either side
  • Balloons, parachutes, and propellers cannot extend more than 12” from vehicle while in flight

Construction Guidelines

  1. The majority of the device must be built in class by you and/or your partner. Adults may support you at home with more complex tasks, such as using a power tool, but this help must be documented in NBs.
  2. Label ALL materials and project pieces in ink with your name and period
  3. Store all pieces in a labeled bag or box that fits within the class storage cabinet
  4. Always use scratch paper as a placemat when gluing
  5. LEAVE NO TRACE (clean up after yourself)
  6. Report any safety or behavioral issues to your teacher immediately

***Failure to follow these guidelines result in a lowered citizenship grade and removal from the project.