The Tulsa Engineering Challenge (TECh)

The Tulsa Engineering Challenge (TECh) promotes our youth’s interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers with an annual challenge event featuring engineering design based competitions and exhibits.

The 2016 Tulsa Engineering Challenge will be held on March 4, 2016 at the Tulsa Tech Riverside Campus.

Teacher Information

Dear Teachers,

We are excited you are considering having your students participate in the 2016 Tulsa Engineering Challenge (TECh) on Friday, March 4th at Tulsa Tech Riverside Campus. It is a fun hands-on event for grades 4 – 12. There are 11 events that require pre-preparation. There are an additional three (3) events that are “walk-in” – your students can decide that day to participate. Registration opens at 8:30 AM on March 4th. Teachers are invited to a walk-thru on Thursday evening, March 3 between 5:00 PM and 6:30 PM. Pizza will be served. It will be in Hanger A.

Typically teachers register teams for one event to several. They select events that compliment their curriculum and ones that they think their students would have fun doing. Several teachers give their students options and encourage the student to work on their own outside of class. Others do it as part of their class and have run-offs prior to TECH. Bus transportation reimbursement is available from the American Society of Civil Engineers – Oklahoma Chapter. Go to Fill in the on-line form under Sponsorship.

Some teachers register for no events and bring their students to observe. In addition to watching the judging of the events, they participate in the walk-up activities and visit the exhibitors.

Exhibitors in the past have varied from colleges that offer engineering degrees to schools that offer welding training as well as companies that design, create and build. We also have FIRST Robotics and Lego League displays.

The events that require pre-registration are: Deadline for registration of # of teams is Feb. 19, 2016.

  • Chemical Switch
  • Digital Poster
  • Electric Motor
  • Extreme Engineering Challenge
  • Paper Airplane Distance
  • Paper Airplane Duration
  • Ping-Pong Ball Launcher
  • Robot
  • Rubber Band Powered Vehicle
  • Toothpick Bridge
  • Wacky Wonder Works

Walk-in events are:

  • Aluminum Boats
  • Mini Math
  • Academic Olympiad

Activities students can observe while wandering around:

  • Chemistry / Physics Show hosted by the Society of Women Engineers
  • Exhibitor tables

Below is a table of the # of teams that you can register. Divisions are as follows:Lower Division is Grades 4th – 6th; Middle Division is Grades 7th – 8th; and Upper Division is Grades 9th – 12th. Please note the change in team entries for the Rubber-Band Powered Vehicle. It is now limited to three teams. Schools are encouraged to have run-offs before the day of the event.

We ask that one teacher at your school site register all the classes that participate in one division. Prizes are given to the students (1st, 2nd and 3rd place) as well as to the teacher’s class. Prizes are $50, $40 and $25 for the Paper Airplanes, Academic Olympiad and Extreme Engineering Competitions; $20 per hour for the Mini-Math and Aluminum Boat; and $100, $75 and $50 for the remaining competitions.


Event Limited to:
Chemical Switch Six entries per Middle & Upper division per school; individual or team
Digital Poster Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 to 4 students
Electric Motor Six entries per division per school, individual or team of 2 to 4 students
Extreme Engineering Challenge Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 students
Paper Airplane – Distance Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 students
Paper Airplane – Duration Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 students
Ping-Pong Ball Launcher Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 students
Robot Six entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 to 4 students
Rubber Band Powered Vehicle Three entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 to 4 students
Toothpick Bridge Building Four entries per division per school; individual or team of 2 to 4 students
Wacky Wonder Works Two entries per division per school; no limit to team members
Academic Olympiad No limit on entries; individual
Aluminum Boats No limit on entries; individual
Mini-Math No limit on entries; individual
TECh is intended to help you give a fun exciting experience to your students that demonstrate that engineering is creative, collaborative, flexible and lucrative. Did I mention that cash awards up to $100 are given?

Please contact Jennifer Bulter with any questions you have at or call 918-381-6825.

2016 TECh Results

2016 Tulsa Engineering Challenge Summary of Winners

TECh results for the individual events are below:

  1. Academic Olympiad  (1st, 2nd, & 3rd place only) see Summary of Winners, above
  2. Aluminum Foil Boat – (those who were 1st per time period) see Summary of Winners, above
  3. Chemical Switch
  4. Digital Poster
  5. Electrical Motor
  6. Extreme Engineering Challenge
  7. Mini-Math  see Summary of Winners  List (coming soon)
  8. Paper Airplane Distance
  9. Paper Airplane Duration
  10. Ping-Pong Ball Launcher
  11. Robot
  12. Rubber Band Powered Vehicle
  13. Toothpick Bridge
  14. Wacky Wonder Works

2016 Events & Rules




Academic Olympiad

On-site competition running continuously during the Challenge. Questions on science, technology, engineering and math appropriate to grade level.

Aluminum Boat

On-site competition running continuously during the Challenge. The objective is to”load” a boat or vessel with the greatest number of pennies, until the boat sinks.

Chemical Switch

Design a chemical reaction that will interrupt an electrical circuit for a light bulb.

Digital Poster

Digital Poster incorporates this year’s theme into a digital poster design. You may use computer graphics, digital photos, etc. The theme is Engineers Make a World of Difference.

Electric Motor

Design, build and test an electrical motor powered by a dry cell battery that rotates at the highest possible speed.

Extreme Engineering

Be prepared to design and build something on site with materials that will be provided to you. This requires only a strong team and a good attitude. The team will be given the design challenge upon registration at the event.

Mini-Math Contest

On-site competition running continuously during the Challenge. Questions primarily on math topics appropriate to grade level. Separate questions for Junior High and High School Students.


Paper Plane Distance

Design, document, fabricate (or fold), and submit for flight testing a “paper” airplane to demonstrate maximum distance of flight.

Paper Plane Duration

Design, document, fabricate (or fold), and flight-test a “paper” airplane to demonstrate maximum duration of flight.

Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Design, build and test a ping-pong ball launcher powered by a common household mousetrap that will propel as many ping-pong balls as possible into a target.


Design, build and test an electrically controlled and powered robot which moves steel washers in sequence from one location to another.

Rubber Band Powered Vehicle

Design, build and test a rubber band powered vehicle, which will carry a load the greatest distance.

Toothpick Bridge

Design and build a model bridge, which will bear the most weight, using only wood toothpicks and carpenter’s wood glue.


Wacky Wonder Works

Design a mechanism that will do an assigned task with as many steps as possible. The task is completely unzip a six inch long zipper, or unzip a longer zipper by at least six inches.


Questions may be sent to

Q(Robot): Can the control module be connected to the robot or does the robot have to be remotely controlled?

A: The “controls” can be mounted anywhere as long as they are not on moving parts. Operator actions must be limited to “operating” switches, buttons, etc. The operator cannot manually move any parts of the device once testing starts.

Q(Electric Motor): Can I route the power from the 1.5 Volt battery through a hand-constructed transformer to increase power or would that violate the spirit of the competition?

A: No.

Q(Chemical Switch): Any suggestions on which chemicals to use in the chemical switch?

A: Sample ideas: Students may use gas-producing reactions(Vinegar and Baking Soda) and harness the gas to turn the light bulb off. A wire in the circuitry may be dipped in acid, which will react with the wire and eventually break the circuit. An iodine clock reaction may be used to trigger a switch.

Q(Rubber Band Powered Vehicle): Can a car be made completely from a Connects set or a Lego set?

A: Yes. Commercially assembled vehicles are not permitted; however, commercially manufactured components may be used as parts of the vehicle.

Q(Wacky Wonder Works): A student is using a pump to release air into an air cylinder which pushes a plunger out. One teacher says that the air is never compressed because the pressure is released as the plunger moves. Another teacher thinks the air pump violates “no compressed gases rule.” What is the official interpretation?

A: This is acceptable as long as compression of the air does not create a projectile or explosive condition within the device.

Q(Ping Pong Ball Launcher): There are two different ping-pong ball sizes. 38 and 40 mm. Which size is being used?

A: Design for both. The standard is moving towards 40mm but chances are a mix of old and new may be used.

Q(Ping Pong Ball Launcher ):Is the student able to hold the launcher arm down with his own hand or must it be held with another device that is then released by the student?

A: Yes. The student can use their hand to secure it, but remember that the launcher’s aim and force will vary with the student’s strength, position and timing.

Q(Toothpick Bridge): Can you please answer two question that have come up as my students build toothpick bridges? * Can they use Gorilla Glue? * Can they use Tite Bond 3 Wood Glue? 2nd Q: I noticed in the rules for the toothpick bridge, that the glue must be WHITE carpenter’s wood glue.  I was only able to find a yellow colored Elmer’s carpenter’s wood glue.  Is this acceptable?

A: Gorilla Glue is not allowed.  The main factors for future consideration is:

  1. The name or description of the glue states that it is “wood glue”.
  2. That the toothpicks are not “coated” or “dipped”.

As a rule of thumb the judges look for clean surface area of 50% on each and every toothpick.

Q(Toothpick Bridge): Is it okay if the testing eyebolt screw runs through or sticks up into the road bed in the midst of the PVC pipe opening? A: Yes, it is. The skeletal frame of the bridge should be large enough to be able to slide the pvc pipe into the bridge from either end. It is okay for the testing eye bolt to block passage of the pipe all the way through the bridge as long as the eye bolt and block meet competition specifications.

Q(Robot): Can a 9-volt battery be used in a remote controller in addition to the 6-volt “lantern” battery to power the robot?

A: The 9 volt battery is acceptable if only used in a remote control system and does not directly power the mechanism of the robot.

Q(Robot):Can a circuit board which he removed from an old toy in his efforts to make the robot work?

A: “Pre-manufactured subassemblies such as computer or controller modules will not be permitted, except a keyboard subassembly with no more than 12 keys and/or game/toy joysticks will be allowed.” Judges may use discretion in the case that the circuit board is recycled for material and does not present an advantage in how it is used. When in doubt request clarification from a judge through

Q(Registration): I have a group of 3 students wanting to enter this year’s competition. They are in high school. Do they have to have a teacher attend with them?  If so, does it have to be a “teacher’ or could it be a parent.  Also, is there a minimum? Can we just bring this one small group of 3?   

A: All students will need an adult sponsor.  It doesn’t matter if the sponsor is a teacher or a parent. Any amount of participants are welcome per the current rules for each event.  Just keep in mind the sponsor information is what is used to send the prize money and certificates to students.

Q(Robot):Are students allowed to use lego mindstorm components to build their robot?  Or anything similar to that? 

A:My interpretation of the rules is that Lego Mindstrom components are acceptable.  I think the most controversial component would be the Lego motor assembly with its attached feedback sensor, but I believe that is within the sprit of the “motors and other electromechanical actuators may be of toy or hobbyist types readily available from local retail stores.”  I also do not see any problem with allowing the use of the Mindstrom NEXT  micro-controller brick .  In addition, the rules state “powered only be non-rechargeable dry cell batteries”.  Mindstorms have provision for using rechargeable batteries.  I see no problem with allowing the rechargeable batteries if someone shows up with them, as long as they do not exceed the 6 volt limit.

Q (Bridge): Is the mass of the load block part of the 12 oz maximum weight limit?” 

A: Yes, the loading block is included in the weight of the bridge.  1/18/2013

Q (Electric Motor): I am unclear on just what the difference is for the high school students regarding the electric motor. 

A: I’ll give you a brief answer, but please ask for more information from us if this does not answer your question. We have defined motors in 3 categories A, B and C:  A being the most complex and difficult to build and C is very simple to construct but the students usually have only a vague concept of why and how it works.  Upper division (grades 9-12) may enter A motors only, Middle division (grades 7-8) may enter A or B motors, and Lower division (grades 6 and under) may enter A, B, or C motors and the C motors are judged in a separate class for the Lower division.

Internet searches on YouTube, Google and in Wikipedia using the modifying terms “homopolar” and “Beakman” with “electric motor ” should produce more information and illustrations.

The category C motor is also called “homopolar” and generally consist of a metallic cylindrical permanent magnet attracted to a small screw acting as a pivot or axis of rotation.  The screw point is magnetically attracted to one of the battery terminals and the electrical circuit is completed with a wire from the other battery terminal to the outer rim of the circular magnet.  Very simple to construct but hard to understand why it rotates and how to optimize its performance.

The category B motor is also called a “Beakman” and generally consists of several loops  (or turns in motor lingo) of “enameled” (thin electrical insulating paint-like coating) wire with the ends jutting out to form the axle or axis of rotation.  Wires with a J-shaped end to support the loop and axle are attached to each terminal of the battery.  A permanent magnet(s) usually magnetically attracted to the battery case  and near the loop complete the construction.  The performance depends on the student’s understanding of where and how to to remove the enamel insulation form the wire and other form factors.  It is quite simple to build but requires  more skill and understanding than the category C motor.

The category A motor is constructed from basic materials and has a clearly identifiable magnetic field structure, an armature structure with electrical conductors connected to the  battery source through a switching device and a mechanical shaft output device that could be connected to a load to produce useful work.  There are many configurations, but generally looks like what one thinks of when visualizing a useful electrical motor.  This category takes more understanding of the motor principles and is more complex and challenging to build. 2/4/2014