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Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question about The Tech Challenge? Check below to see if it’s already answered. If not, email your questions to email@example.com. We are happy to provide you with an answer within five business days. Emailed questions and answers will be added anonymously to this page.
1. How do I register a team? Click here to register for The Tech Challenge.
2. Can participants on the same team attend different schools? Yes.
3. Can a third-grader join our team? No. The Tech Challenge is designed for students in Grades 4-12 and is not age-appropriate for younger students.
4. I am a sixth-grader and want to be on the same team as my ninth-grade brother. Is that OK? Yes, teams can have members from different grade levels. However, you will compete at the level of the team's highest grade level. For instance, even though you are in sixth grade, your team will compete in the high school competition.
1. How can we tell if our hovercraft is hovering?
Slide a piece of paper under your device. If your hovercraft is hovering, the paper will slide under it easily and won't significantly change the hovercraft's movement.
Have a rules question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Does the hovercraft have to hit the end of the track to complete its run?
No. To complete a run the hovercraft must fully cross the finish line at 16” from the end of the track.
3. Can I push the hovercraft if it gets stuck?
No pushing of hovercraft or shaking of the table or track is allowed.
You can tilt the track in opposite direction or use a reset. Teams using the reset option will receive a lower score.
4. Is remote control of the hovercraft allowed?
Remote control is allowed. However, the Challenge was designed not to require steering.
5. If using RC, do the batteries in the remote transmitter count toward the 12V limit?
No, the remote transmitter is on a separate circuit. Each circuit needs to be 12V or less.
6. Can we add pieces to the hovercraft or remove pieces for particular runs?
Only the payload of 5 quarters can be added after Run #1.
Nothing may be removed.
However, teams may touch the hovercraft between runs to adjust, make simple repairs, restore energy, or reset their device.
7. Battery visibility
The rules state "Battery voltage markings must be clearly visible to the judges for inspection.” The intent is that the judges want to determine battery compliance (voltage and size) without the team taking apart their device. If you are using a battery case, use an open battery case that shows battery voltage and size. If you are using tape, use clear tape. Design your device accordingly. Rotate your battery so that the voltage rating is clearly visible. Commercial multiple battery packs are OK if pack is clearly marked with manufacturer's voltage rating and battery size is determinable.
8. What are you referring to when you talk about the track?
In general, we're talking about the test rig: Track A, Track B, or Track C. In the rules, however, "track" refers to the surface directly beneath the device. The track does not include the curbs. See Device Specification #3 for an example.
Test Trials Questions
1. How do I sign up for test trials? Test trial registration can be found here.
2. How important is it to attend test trials? It's better to fail at a trial than at the showcase! The real test rig might be different from what you’re testing on at home. Also, there will be judges at test trials to answer questions. Test trials are a great way to troubleshoot and refine your solution. There will be several test trial events, so take full advantage!
3. How do you get the most out of the test trials? Come to as many test trials as you can, even if you don't have a device ready to test. Bring a tool kit so you can tinker with your device. Have the team talk about their experience after each trial. Ask what worked and what didn't. Remember to document your thoughts in your engineering journal.
1. Can we get information on the details of the judging process? General information can be found in the Judging Process section. Specific details of judging are only available to Tech staff and senior volunteers assigned to help with judging. The Tech does not make available the names of judges.
2. Can we get sponsors for our team? Sure. When looking for sponsors, consider two things: what you need and who you know. Think about businesses that have the materials you are looking for and ask for donations. Or talk to friends, family, neighbors or anyone else who might want to help you. You'll want to prepare a presentation before you approach potential sponsors. Describe the competition and why you are participating. Explain where you are in the design process and how their assistance will help you. Take things for them to look at, The Tech Challenge poster, your latest device sketch, etc. Respect their time and keep it brief.
3. Can I get together with anyone to create a team, or do teams have to be students from the same school? You can get together with anyone to create a team. The only rule is that every participant must be in Grades 4-12 somewhere — not necessarily in your class or school.
1. Where is The Tech Challenge showcase held? Parkside Hall
2. What time should we arrive? Please don't show up more than 60 minutes before your division's judging time. Your team must arrive at least one hour before your division's judging time ends. If you arrive later than that, you will not have time to make it through judging. Your team only needs to be present for its division's judging time. Judging is first come, first served. Judging times will be announced and emailed to participants before the end of the year.
3. What should we bring? Bring your device and engineering journal. You can bring tools for working on your device in the pit, but they must be hand tools because there is no power. We recommend bringing a wagon or cart to carry your things.
4. Do we need to stay the entire day, or can we leave after we’ve been judged? You only need to stay for judging, but we hope you’ll stay for the awards ceremony. It’s a great opportunity to see what other teams have done and celebrate the hard work of all participants!
5. Where should adults go when the team starts the check-in and judging process? The team’s adviser is the only adult allowed to accompany the team into the pit, where they wait to begin the judging process. Everyone else must find a seat in the bleachers. When the team is called for judging, the adviser must sit in the bleachers.
6. How long does the judging process take? Two to three hours.
7. Where can I store my stuff after the competition? There is no storage at The Tech. Please return your materials to your car. If you came by public transportation you’ll need to carry your things with you.
8. How much does it cost to visit the museum? Admission to The Tech is free during the weekend of The Tech Challenge — just visit the ticketing desk. IMAX tickets are sold separately.
9. Can we eat at The Tech Challenge? Sorry, no food is allowed in the judging areas, bleachers or pit. Please visit The Tech Cafe or any of the numerous restaurants within walking distance of The Tech, or have a picnic lunch across the street at Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
10. What happens if judges say our design is not consistent with the rules? Assuming judges see no issues with safety or potential damage to the rig, your team will be allowed to compete, but the non-compliance will be noted on your score sheet.
11. Are head and eye protection required while testing?
You must wear eye protection while testing your device at home, during test trials and at the showcase. Prescription eyeglasses do not qualify as protection. ANSI-approved safety glasses or goggles that fit over eyeglasses are available at most hardware stores for less than $5.
12. Will the engineering journal be turned in to the judges? Yes. During their interview with judges, the teams will be asked to leave their journals. The teams will be able to retrieve their journals after the awards ceremony.
13. Can adults come into the judging area with the teams? No. After check-in, teams will enter a teams-only line that leads to judging. Parents, advisers and other adults may sit in the stands and watch their teams perform. Please do not stand in the aisles and try to observe the interview. After a team has completed judging, members will meet up with their adults as they leave the teams-only area.
14. Is it OK if some members of the team cannot make it to the showcase? Yes, but your journal should reflect the contributions of all team members. We understand that not everyone can make it to the showcase, but it’s a wonderful experience and we encourage everyone and their families and friends to attend.
15. If we don’t win, do we still get a prize? Every team member at the event gets a team photo, T-shirt and completion medal. Working on the challenge is the important thing, and we want to recognize that!
16. If our device doesn’t work, should we still come to the showcase? Yes. The showcase is a celebration of everyone's hard work. The judges look forward to hearing about your process and seeing your final design.
1. My child is participating in the challenge this year. Can I volunteer to be a judge? No. Parents, advisers and teachers of participants are not permitted to serve as judge.
2. Are there any roles in which a parent of a Tech Challenge participant can help? Yes. Parents of participants may sign up to volunteer providing event or team support.
3. I would like to sign up my entire team from work to volunteer for the challenge. Can I just submit a spreadsheet and have you sign them up for me? We cannot enter volunteer information from a spreadsheet or other document. We recommend that your company/organization appoint a lead person to register volunteers.
4. If I can’t attend any of the judge trainings, what can I do to still be a judge? We offer a webinar during which participants may submit questions and receive responses from a judge trainer. If you are unable to attend the webinar, we offer a recorded version that volunteer judges may watch at their leisure.
5. Can my child volunteer with me? Children age 15 and up are welcome to volunteer in a non-judge role.
6. How old do I need to be to be a judge? You must be at least 18 and a high school graduate.
7. I have to bring my young child with me. Can I still volunteer? Children 15 and over are welcome to volunteer with you. If your child is under 15 please make other arrangements for his or her care.
8. Can my spouse or significant other volunteer with me? Absolutely! Spouses and significant others are encouraged to volunteer.
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