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Volleyball Machine—2019 Engineering Challenge Results

Build a Device to Pass a Ball Back and Forth

The 2019 competition is over, but you can still try this challenge for fun! Can you build a volleyball machine that will pass a ball back-and-forth over a paper net? What is the longest passing sequence you can achieve in five minutes?

Full details, including the building, testing, and scoring procedures, can be found in these formats:

Congratulations to All Participants

More than 4,300 students from 10 countries participated in the 2019 Science Buddies Engineering Challenge—our fifth anniversary of this annual event. Challenged to create a volleyball machine consisting of two devices, separated by a paper net, which could launch and return a ping pong ball, students brainstormed and built innovative solutions out of simple materials like cups, rubber bands, paper, tape and craft sticks. Striving to minimize the materials used and maximize the number of successful back-and-forth volleys required iterative problem solving and persistence and led to some truly creative solutions.

student teams from the 2019 Engineering Challenge
Figure 1. A few of the teams who submitted Ball Launcher solutions for the 2019 Engineering Challenge

Drawing Winners

All eligible team entries were placed into random prize drawings based on geographic location. Congratulations to the twenty winning teams listed in Table 1 whose names were drawn from the eligible pools! Each of these teams earned $1,000 USD from Fluor Corporation for their school, organization, or afterschool program.

Team School / Program
Houston, TX
MKG 6Enrichment St. Laurence Catholic School
Greenville, SC
Candy Gods Summit Drive Elementary
Orange County, CA
David Samueli Academy
Calgary, Alberta
Guide Group 3 Cybermentor – Pathfinder STEM Day
United States (including Puerto Rico)
Team Fluff Wedgwood Elementary School
Sra Batista – Malia, Lola & Lalaih Viejo Elementary
IBA Tanks Unioto Elementary
Science Experts Jonesboro Visual & Performing Art Magnet
Unbeatables Bess Campbell Elementary
Caesar Dressing Lovers The Moriah School
CF & TR Slavens K-8 School
We Don't Know What We Are Doing Horton Middle School
Team Team Arizona Agribusiness ad Equine Center
Rosie Gar-bage III John Curtis Christian School
Team DEAW Halifax Elementary
The Ballers Wayne High School
Taylor & Olivia Team Goomeri State School
Super N John De Graff Elementary School
Team #craftycandygirls Cloverdale Traditional — SD 61
Cupaccino Chinook Council Scouts
Table 1. Random drawing winners of the 2019 Engineering Challenge

Top Ten Scores Overall

The 2019 Science Buddies Engineering Challenge was open to students in grades K-12. The top 10 scores, overall, are shown in Table 2. All scores were validated by Science Buddies staff based on submission photos and the Challenge rules. Regardless of score, all entries that met the geographic requirements were entered in the random drawings.

histogram all entries 2019 engineering challenge
"The best thing about the Volleyball challenge was that it gave us a realistic look at what engineers have to face from the actual building to deciding between costs and value to teamwork. We learned a lot."

(Team Spike, St Clare School)
Top Volleyball Machine Scores
Team Age
Decomposers 10 2,881
Team Golden French Fries 10 2,545
Nightmare 14 2,004
Rabbit 101 9 1,998
Demons 15 1,951
Udaan 16 1,881
Fresaiah 15 1,877
Rainbow Warriors 8 1,560
Team Hat 12 1,547
Team GG 14 1,527
Table 2. 2019 Engineering Challenge top scores

Top Scores by Age

Students entering the 2019 Science Buddies Engineering Challenge worked in teams of up to four students. To recognize the hard work students did creating and testing their solutions and to give students a better sense of how their solutions and scores compare to other students of similar age, the tables and graphs below show the top scores and score distribution for submissions from ages 6-10, 11-14, and 15-18. (Note: The age used for each team is the average age of all members on the team.)

historgram ages 6 to 10
"Our favorite part about this challenge was the building and trying to work together and learning from our mistakes."

(Junior Rainbow Magic Keepers, Rio Vista Elementary)
Top Volleyball Machine Scores—Ages 6-10
Team School/Program Score
Decomposers St Mary Star of the Sea School 2,881
Team Golden French Fries Rio Vista Elementary 2,545
Rabbit 101 Brainworks International School 1,998
Rainbow Warriors Brainworks International School 1,560
The Engineers Rio Vista Elementary 1,463
HTET MYAT KO Brainworks International School 1,193
NYAN YE LIN Brainworks International School 1,103
Dream Works Brainworks International School 1,101
Just Us Brainworks International School 1,053
Starlight Brainworks International School 1,027
Table 3. 2019 Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 6-10

"Our favorite part, was having the satisfaction of having something we built work and work well. After, going through many steps of trial and error, and even using different designs to optimize the affect of our machine, it was pleasing to see that we could shoot the ball over the net many times."

(Team Epic Gamers, Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School)
Top Volleyball Machine Scores—Ages 11-14
Team School/Program Score
Nightmare Brainworks International School 2,004
Team HAT Brainworks International School 1,547
Team GG Brainworks International School 1,527
Team SM Brainworks International School 1,385
The Chow Chow Brainworks International School 1,379
The Group 42 Brainworks International School 1,279
The Girlz Brainworks International School 1,200
THET PAING TUN Brainworks International School 1,186
Fish Lasagna Brainworks International School 1,184
Violet Brainworks International School 1,184
Table 4. 2019 Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 11-14

histogram ages 15 to 18
"Our favorite part of the 2019 Engineering Challenge was when our machine finally worked. We tried multiple different designs and strategies, but it proved to be much harder than we originally thought. When we finally got a good volley going, we were extremely excited. Every time we beat our top score we'd jump around and cheer."

(Team Beta, Governor's Career and Technical Academy for Engineering Study)
Top Volleyball Machine Scores—Ages 15-18
Team School/Program Score
Demons Brainworks International School 1,951
Udaan Swatantra Talim Foundation 1,881
Fresaiah Brainworks International School 1,877
Team Sandra Brainworks International School 1,385
Team H & MS Brainworks International School 1,289
Lethal Brainworks International School 1,244
Doldaegalreedul (rockheads) AG Admissions 1,242
Team N.J.S Brainworks International School 1,070
The below city Calamba City Senior High School 1,038
Jaku Calamba City Senior High School 1,000
Table 5. 2019 Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 15-18

teams with volleyball machine solutions
Figure 2. Some of the teams who submitted Volleyball Machine solutions for the 2019 Engineering Challenge

Students Embrace the Challenge

Students who entered the 2019 Science Buddies Engineering Challenge had the chance to explore, firsthand, what it means to be an engineer and to collaborate with others to solve a problem and improve a solution. Here are a few examples of what students (and their teachers) told us about their experience doing this year's Volleyball Machine Challenge:

"My favorite part of the challenge was the 'team-building' skills that each member of the team acquired. Each member had to find their own 'role' and carry it out to help the team achieve success. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm and the creative thinking involved in each team's design. Students took ownership of their machines and took pride in what they were able to accomplish." (Teacher, Clara Barton Elementary School)
"Super pumped to be able to accomplish this challenge even though it took a LOT of trial and error before finding a design concept that worked." (STEAM Team Color Code, Stillwater Christian School)
"Love all the science and math tie ins!" (Teacher, William Mason Cooper Elementary)
"Never have I seen this group of students so off the charts excited about accomplishing a STEAM challenge. They wanted to keep trying to increase the number of times they could volley their ball, but alas, I had to make them leave so they wouldn't miss their lunch time." (Teacher, Barton Creek Elementary)
"I saw enormous growth in their thinking and reasoning skills as they worked through issues with their designs." (Teacher, Brookstone School)
"My class is always excited for hands-on science activities, but nothing prepared me for their enthusiasm towards this challenge." (Teacher, Garden City School)
"Our favorite part of the [Engineering] Challenge was the ups and downs of the project. We really enjoyed when our contraption worked but found that when the contraption didn't work we could always find a way to fix it. We really liked how we could work together to complete a task like this that we never imagined we could do." (Team AME, Punahau School)
"My favorite part of the 2019 [Science Buddies] Engineering Challenge was the limit in the amount of materials you can use. In other engineering competitions, usually the teams with the best materials won, but the point penalty for using too many materials led this to be a fun challenge. Everyone has an equal chance to win, and innovation was tested, rather than the quantity of materials. Making the challenge a goal to make a cheap and effective mechanism is what allowed me to enjoy this project. Thank you!" (Educator, AG Admissions)
"TEAM work rocks! We loved the challenge and 'doing science.' We demonstrated what we CAN DO and loved the results. Thank you for challenging us to do our best!" (Team Bayou Boys, John Curtis Christian School)
Free science fair projects.