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Ball Launcher—2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

Congratulations to the 2018 Fluor Challenge Drawing Winners and High Scorers!

More than 3,800 students from 10 countries participated in the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge. Challenged to create a ball launcher and receiver using everyday materials (like cups, pencils, ruler, tape, rubber bands, and paper), students devised and tested innovative solutions and launcher designs. After successfully creating a simple machine to launch a small ball made from aluminum foil, many students continued to test and modify their designs to try for successful catches with even greater launch distances. More than 1,390 teams submitted entries for the 2018 Fluor Challenge.

Figure 1. A few of the teams who submitted Ball Launcher solutions for the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

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

Team School / Program
Houston, TX
Third Ward Kempner High School
Greenville, SC
Newton's 4 Launchers Monarch Elementary School
Orange County, CA
Team Hi Joseph Perry Elementary School
Calgary, Alberta
The Hamsters Chinook Council Scouts
United States (including Puerto Rico)
The Long Boomers LaGrange Elementary
Survivors Jemison Intermediate School
Survivors Rio Vista Elementary
Catapult Supernova Philippine Christian School of Tomorrow
Space Potatoes Glenwood Elementary
Super Cats Academie de la Capitale
Table 1. Random drawing winners of the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

Top Scores for the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

The Fluor Challenge is open to students in grades K-12. The top 10 scores, overall, for the 2018 Fluor Challenge are shown in Table 2. All scores are validated by Science Buddies staff based on submission photos, the Challenge rules, and follow-up with teams, as necessary. Regardless of score, all entries that met the geographic requirements were entered in the random drawings.

"My favorite part was the teamwork part, because I got to work with other smart minds to put a good working launcher together. The ideas we came up with to create a working launcher were great!"
(Team KWK)
Top Ball Launcher Solution Scores
Team Age
Catapultimate 12 134,464
Students of Leonardo da Vinci 12 106,325
The Pencils 14 89,720
Explorers 14 87,480
Razorbacks 12 84,250
Coy and Carlo 17 83,250
Srijan 14 77720
Science Nerds 11 77650
She Wolves 11 77290
DAAD 14 76770
Table 2. 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge top scores

2018 Fluor Challenge Scores by Age

Students entering the Fluor Challenge work 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.)

"The kids absolutely loved the challenge of discovering ways to not only launch further, but how to make their launches more accurate. As a teacher, I loved how each team had to discover what items to use and perform multiple trials to be successful."
(Teacher, Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School)
Top Ball Launcher Solution Scores—Ages 6-10
Team School/Program Score
Flying Solo Homeschool 66,475
The Web Glenwood Elementary 53,430
RTL Brainworks International School 51,435
Big Bang Philippine Christian School of Tomorrow 49,870
The Launcher Boys SCOPES Academy at Unioto Elementary 46,370
Firebolt Rio Vista Elementary 44,640
Amazing Launcher Philippine Christian School of Tomorrow 42,570
M&M St Michael's School 42,000
3D Sparkle SCOPES Academy at Unioto Elementary 40,745
Fast 4 Rio Vista Elementary 39,580
Table 3. 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 6-10

"My favorite part of the challenge was building and engineering the device. Trial and error was really fun because we got to improve our machine until we achieved our goal."
(Team The Juniors, Coppell Middle School East)
Top Ball Launcher Solution Scores—Ages 11-14
Team School/Program Score
Catapultimate Bay Academy 134,464
Students of Leonardo da Vinci Bay Academy 106,325
The Pencils St. Clare School 89,720
Explorers Swatantra Talim Foundation 87,480
Razorbacks West Side Greers Ferry School 84,250
Srijan Swatantra Talim Foundation 77,720
Science Nerds Bay Academy 77650
She Wolves West Side Greers Ferry School 77,290
DAAD Chester Hill High School 76,770
BayGirl Bay Academy 76,144
Table 4. 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 11-14

"It was fun to problem solve and find a way to make the ball go as far as possible with using the least amount of points. We also enjoyed building the launcher and testing."
(Team Silicon, Mauldin High School)
Top Ball Launcher Solution Scores—Ages 15-18
Team School/Program Score
Coy and Carlo Kennedy High School 83,250
Gorilla Roar Kempner High School 66,060
Manon's Project Riverside High School 51,351
Chicken Nuggets Fairchild Wheeler Magnet - Engineering 49,882
Silicon Mauldin High School 48,505
Team Calvin New Covenant Christian School 46,614
Sine(P) Kempner High School 45,915
Green Machines De La Salle Santiago Zobel School 45,380
Ramon Alpha Ramon Duterte Memorial National High School 44,514
The Land Urchin Samueli Academy 44,420
Table 5. 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge top scores for ages 15-18

Figure 2. Some of the teams who submitted Ball Launcher solutions for the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

Students Embrace the Challenge

Students who entered the 2018 Fluor 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 Ball Launcher challenge:

"My favorite part of the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge was our failures. It was very fun to learn what we could do better and how. I also enjoyed this because our project became better and better after each mistake. Thanks to the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge I have learned how to work out real world situations, communicate, and have a good time during projects such as this." (Team The Mighty Rubber Ducks, Saint John School-Encinitas)
"Our Favorite part of the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge was drawing up the plans for our design and watching it come to life step by step." (Team LazerShot, Kennedy High School)
"Creating and building our own design was really good. We don't often get to actually follow the Engineering Design Process all the way and get to test and adapt our designs. We enjoyed trying to get the best score possible." (Team JACE, Goomeri State School)
"Our favorite part of the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge was gaining teamwork and problem solving skills. In order to make our tinfoil ball travel farther, we had to figure out how to create more tension without the tension making the device collapse. This took problem solving skills and testing. It also took teamwork, because we had to combine and compare our ideas. Gaining these skills helped us to be more successful." (Team Launch Hawks, L.C. Bird High School)
"My favorite is always watching how teams compromise, work together, and encourage one another to be the best version of themselves. Their favorite part was definitely launching a foil ball across the classroom (even when it didn't go into the catching device)." (Teacher, Highland Park Elementary)
"I am the 5th grade science teacher at Monarch Elementary School. This challenge came in the middle of our Force and Motion unit and all six of my classes loved participating. I especially enjoyed listening to the conversations that happened between team mates as they processed what they were creating. Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!" (Teacher, Monarch Elementary School)

For additional information, quotes, and images from the 2018 Fluor Challenge, see Fourth Annual Fluor Challenge Celebrates Engineering.

Continue to Challenge Yourself

Even though the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge is over, students can still try their hands at the Ball Launcher engineering activity! Simply follow the online instructions to gather materials, design, build, and test your version of a ball launcher and catcher.

If you are looking for even more fun engineering challenges, check out the 2015, 2016, and 2017 challenges and come back early next year to find out about the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge!

If you have questions about the Fluor Challenge, please email us at fluorchallenge@sciencebuddies.org.

Meet the Team of Fluor Engineers who Created the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge

Fluor employees who came up with this year's challenge include process engineers Temitope Jabaru (left), Linh Nguyen (middle) and Tom Wooley (right).

Fluor holds a Friendly Competition between its engineers every year. The winning team then gets the honor of devising the company challenge for the next year.

Tom Wooley, Linh Nguyen, and Temitope Jabaru, three engineers from Fluor's Houston USA office, are the inspiration behind the 2018 Fluor Engineering Challenge. When they sat down to design the challenge, Tom, Linh, and Temitope wanted to pay tribute to Houston's recent history as the location of the 2017 NFL Super Bowl Championship. What they developed is an engineering challenge based on American football. In the challenge, the ball launcher represents the quarterback (the player that throws the ball), and the ball catcher represents the receiver (the player that catches the ball). The result is a fun engineering challenge!

Do you know what process engineers like Tom, Linh, and Temitope do? According to Linh, process engineers are the "architects" of a refinery or plant. "Process engineers determine the design of the plant by figuring out how the plant needs to work in order to take a starting material and transform it into the desired end product," explains Linh. Linh says that process engineers are responsible for determining what equipment is needed, what 'size' everything needs to be, and how the pieces will all fit together. "The design that process engineers develop forms the 'blueprints' (drawings and specification sheets) of the plant," explains Linh. Using the blueprints they create for a project, process engineers then work with other disciplines (like Mechanical, Piping, Control Systems, Electrical, and Construction) to complete the project. According to Linh, collaborating with other teams is how process engineers "bring their design to life and build a successful plant!"

To become process engineers, Tom, Linh, and Temitope all trained as chemical engineers. Despite having different interests and hobbies, they share a love of math and chemistry that led them to their engineering careers at Fluor. Students can read more about Tom, Linh, and Temitope and then use this special career worksheet to explore the rich world of engineering careers.

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