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Physics Paper Triathlon

Hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy

Maximum number of teams = 45 (9 per timeslot)
Number of competitors per team is 3 or 4


The three events of the paper triathlon will involve various aspects of Physics and Engineering. We will see the common themes of force body diagrams, buoyancy, bending, compression and tension as well as fluid flow and turbulence at work. The measurements required to score the events will be the fundamental measurements of Time, Distance and Mass. As with any triathlon, this event will require great endurance, stamina and mental ability!

Event 1: Build a paper boat which transports a load. The boat must transport the load across a water tank propelled by a fan on one side of the tank.

Event 2: Build a paper bridge. The bridge must support a mass and allow an object to be pulled underneath the bridge.

Event 3: Build a paper glider.

  1. Materials: Each final design (i.e. the boat, bridge, and airplane) must be made out of a single sheet of 8.5" x 11" copier paper. You may use the staples and tape provided, but the quantity of each will be limited. You will not be limited in the number of pieces of paper that you use to converge on a final design but only one final entry will be accepted. Scissors will be supplied.
  2. For each final design you may use at most 30 staples and no more than 50 cm of tape.
  3. Each event will be limited to 10 minutes: 8 min for design and testing and 2 min for the scoring.

Rules for Event 1: The Paper Boat Race.

  1. The sail must propel the boat to the other side of the water tank (~ 6' long) the 'wind' will be supplied by a fan. The boat must carry a load of 50 g, which will be supplied, and the load must remain dry (i.e. it may not be submerged).
  2. During the first 8 min you will be able to carry out two tests in the tank.
  3. The score will be based on the time required to cross the finish line. Only one try will be allowed.

Rules for Event 2: The Paper Airplane.

  1. You may fold, cut, tape, staple your airplane. An attachment point must be provided at the top of the airplane so that the plane can be easily held by a clamp. The clamp will be released to let the plane glide.
  2. 8 minutes will be allowed to converge on a final entry and you will be allowed to test your plane during that time. Two minutes will be used to allow three runs. Minor adjustments may be made between runs but the time will be limited to the two minutes.
  3. The score will be based on the horizontal distance from the launch site to the first landing point. The first landing point must be the floor, not a wall or other obstacle, otherwise that run will be disqualified.

Rules for Event 3: The Paper Bridge.

  1. The bridge must span a gap of 12" and an object 1" tall must be able to slide under the midpoint of the bridge without contact.
  2. A mass must be placed at the midpoint of the bridge and the mass will be increased until the bridge collapses or the 1" object fails to slide underneath the bridge without contact.
  3. The bridge may not be fastened to the foundation in any way!
  4. The score will be based on the mass the bridge can support at the midpoint for at least 10 seconds.

Competitions (2016):

Note: Click on an event names
for more info

- Biotech to the Rescue!
- Chemical Forensics
- Civil Canada Arm
- Egg High Drop
- Global Water Challenge
- L.E.A.P.'s Keep it Hot
- Mechanical Transporter
- Mental Gymnastics
- Mini-Car Jump
- Oodles of Noodles
- Photonic Puzzles
- Physics Paper Triathlon
- Pictorial Essay
- Software Challenge
- Teachers Challenge
- The Speeding Brain
- Twists and Turns