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Towing Trash

Towing Trash

Your problem is to build a vehicle and run it down a ramp so it pulls a trash can with weights as far as possible.


This is a two-part challenge.

In Part 1, you will have 6 minutes to discuss the problem, create a solution, and practice.

In Part 2, you will have 2 minutes to test your solution for score. You can talk and ask the judges questions at any time, but time will continue.


(see set-up)


Place a ramp on the floor. The ramp should be 36" long by 4"- 6" wide x minimum of 1/3" thick).

The front end should be stuck down to the floor with tape and the rear end should  be elevated so it stands 16" high. The ramp should have runners along the sides to help guide the vehicle as it travels down the ramp.

Give each team the following items to use:

6 plastic straws

5 paperclips

2 Styrofoam cups 12 oz.

2 plastic bottles, 16 oz.

6 rubber bands

2 socks

8 adhesive mailing labels

4 paper cups, 8 – 12 oz.

10 pipe cleaners

3 paper plates

10 unsharpened pencils

8 large washers

Also provide 8 small wheels (pairs of 2), preferably with parts to use as axles.

Give each team the following items to use as weights:

3 golf balls,

3 coins

3 wood cubes, (approx. 2")

3 cd’s (or dvd’s)

Provide the teams with a plastic deli food container ("Trash Can") that can hold all of the weights. Securely attach a sturdy string, twine or piece of yarn to the container, approximately 24" long, with a loop at its end.

Give the team a piece of masking tape to mark the starting position of the Trash Can.


Your challenge is to build a vehicle and run it down a ramp so it pulls a trash can with weights as far as possible.

You may use only the materials on the table to build your vehicle (point to the table). You may build more than one vehicle.

On the floor are a ramp, a container, and weights. You may move these as you wish but you cannot damage them.

You will run your vehicle for score during Part 2.

The trash can must be connected to the vehicle. This may be done in Part 1 or Part 2. The ramp must rest on the floor.

You can place the trash can anywhere on the floor behind the front of the ramp and mark its location. You will place a piece of masking tape just in front of the trash can to mark its location.

The vehicle must be completely on the ramp when you release it. You may not push it. After it is released the vehicle must travel on its own. A run is over when the vehicle comes to rest or if you touch it. You may make as many scoring runs as you wish with one or more vehicles, but only the last one will count for Tow Distance and Weight Moved.

You can ask to be scored at any time. The competition is over when you ask to be scored or when time ends.

For Judges Only:

Teams may continue building the vehicle in Part II and they make and test more than once. Score for Tow Distance and Weight Moved will be determined by the team’s final run.

Score for travellling down the ramp and moving the trash can can be received for any successful run even if the vehicle is released again and is unsuccessful.

The team does not need to attach the container by the loop in the string. Be sure the team places a pice of masking tape directly in front of the trash can to mark its starting position and to determine the distance it travels. The vehicle must pull the trash can. It may begin when it travels down the ramp or after it runs off the ramp.

Teams may add wheels to the trash can to help it move more easily.

If it is obvious that the team does not understand the problem, you may clarify the problem’s intent and limitations. For example, a team releases its vehicle, it does not pull the container, and the team doesn’t make another attempt. Tell them to read relevant part of the challenge again. Do not help teams solve the problem; help them understand it.


Scoring will be as follows:

If the vehicle travels down the ramp you will receive 5 points.

If the vehicle moves the trash can any distance you will receive 5 bonus points.

Tow Distance will receive 3 points per inch.

Weight Moved will be 5 points per weight in the trash can.

You will receive 1 to 10 points for how well your team works together.


Were team member tasks and responsibilities sorted out clearly?

When scoring how well the team works together, consider the extent that all team members are involved, if they value one another’s input, etc.

When scoring creativity of the team’s solution, consider strategy, experimentation, and how they use the materials.

Was time used effectively?

What would the team do differently if they did it again?

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