The Rules

For any questions or clarifications on the rules, please email


The task for the 2017 Philly Contraption Contest is… water a plant.


There must be at least three members on each team. All team members must be full-time students. Teams must have a parent/guardian or teacher advisor, and only one adult can help the team set up the machine on the day of the event.

Teams will be divided by age division. There is a high school division and an elementary/middle school division. These divisions will be judged separately.

Teams may also be formed in homeschooling groups, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, church youth groups, etc.


Each team will enter a Rube Goldberg-style machine that completes the assigned task.

To be a part of the competition, a machine must have a minimum of ten steps for the elementary/middle school division and 20 steps for high school participants. Maximum height is eight feet. And the machine must fit inside a 10’x10′ square.

The machine must finish its run within two minutes. Each machine will be run twice for the judges. Prior to starting the machine, each team must deliver an oral presentation. In addition to being part of the storytelling process — each machine should tell a story — the team should also use the oral presentation to explain the steps in the machine.

Each machine will be provided with one 120V power source.

Machines are not allowed to include any hazardous materials, live animals, flames or explosives. And as this is a family-friendly event for children, machines and presentations should not contain any profanity or other offensive language or images. Any machines found to be in violation will be immediately disqualified.


Teams will have approximately two hours to set up their machines in the venue.

Each team will present their machine to the judges twice.

Judges will grade the machines and teams on a variety of criteria including absurdity, number of steps (the more the better!), teamwork, the effective use of a story or theme, completion of the task, and the use of everyday objects.

After judging, teams are required to run their machines for spectators. Teams should engage the spectators and answer questions. A team may be disqualified if it does not participate in the public demonstrations.

Winners will be announced the day of the event. In addition to the main awards in each age division, there will also be a People’s Choice category based on spectator votes.

There will be cash prizes as well as other awards.

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