Eastern Electric Vehicle Club

Physics Olympics 2020 - Model Electric Car Competition

The EEVC Model Electric Vehicle competition for the 2020 High School Physics Olympics took place Saturday morning March 8, 2020 at Henderson East High School in West Chester, PA. Seven area high schools participated in the event that included Penncrest, Pennsbury, West Chester Henderson, Cinnaminson, Harriton, Interboro and Friends Select.

The challenge for this year’s event was for the students to construct a vehicle that could haul the most mass in a dedicated cargo bay, while crossing a 5 meter length track in the shortest amount of time. A formula was predetermined by the Physics Olympics organizers as the basis for scoring. The formula consisted of the following parameters:

Points = (2M + m) * d/t

In this formula, M denotes the mass placed in the vehicle cargo bay, m is the mass of the vehicle itself, t is the time in seconds that it takes the vehicle to travel the 5 meter length of track and d is the distance traveled down the track. By taking measurements of each parameter, an overall point total is determined for each competing vehicle.

Members of the EEVC that included Alan Arrison, Jim Natale, Josephine Chiswick and Oliver Perry arrived early to the gymnasium to register and review each model electric truck. As part of the check-in process, each vehicle was weighed and reviewed for adherence to the design criteria. As the competition got underway, EEVC member Carl Grunwald assisted with the scoring by timing each vehicle’s run down the track, while Club President Oliver Perry captured video of the event.

After all of the teams had completed their tries down the track, the EEVC team gathered to critique the design of each electric truck. The EEVC awards a plaque each year in memory of EEVC member Ron Groening to a vehicle and team which the EEVC deems to exhibit excellence in engineering while having a vehicle that finished high in the overall scoring total for the competition. As the EEVC judges each model electric vehicle, members of the EEVC especially look for design elements that should contribute to a strong finish for the vehicle. Based on this year’s scoring formula, some design aspects that were thought to confer advantages included the following. Vehicles that used a low motor to axle gear ratio will have an advantage in torque, allowing the vehicle to carry more weight. Because the scoring formula multiplies cargo mass by 2 and vehicle mass by 1, vehicles that kept the intrinsic weight of their vehicle to a minimum while allowing for a large cargo bay should also have an advantage. Wheel size, traction and friction also tend to critically impact vehicle performance and overall craftsmanship can also influence vehicle selection.

Each year presents difficult choices for the EEVC volunteers as they attempt to discern the best choice from a number of solid candidates. In this year’s competition, vehicles from Pennsbury, Henderson, Friends Select, Interboro and Cinnaminson were among the top finishers. The students from Cinnaminson took a large, seemingly “monster truck” approach to their vehicle design constructing a metal framed vehicle with a huge cargo bay, gigantic wheels and a low motor to axle ratio. Interboro took a simple approach to their tried but true vehicle design. Their vehicle used a simple flatbed with a unique looking switch mechanism that looked like something from a railroad switch yard. During the competition, Interboro did a nice job of loading an optimum amount of mass that could be carried down the track. One of the Henderson vehicle entries creatively mimicked the design of the Tesla Cybertruck. In addition to style points, their cybertruck finished a speedy third place in the overall competition. Other entrants from Henderson included the nicely decorated Henderson Car #2 and a “rubber duck” car.

Pennsbury’s vehicle packed a lot of cargo hauling capability into a squat, “low rider” type vehicle that zipped down the track. It had a light yet surprisingly durable cardboard frame that allowed the team to maximize cargo weight while minimizing the vehicle weight as the scoring formula dictates. During the trial runs, the Pennsbury team pushed the envelope of their vehicle, at one-point loading just a bit too many kilogram weights into the back of their truck, making for a dramatic tip and spill as the vehicle churned down the track. The team made adjustments to the payload area with some handy masking tape and succeeded in a heavy haul on their final run down the track. Their vehicle was second place in the overall standings.

The team from Friends Select engineered a sleek, narrow, high tech looking vehicle with a long cargo bay. This vehicle applied a capacitor bank in its circuit design and used a low motor to axle gear ratio of 1:10, which was the lowest ratio in the field. In addition to being able to carry mass, the vehicle was very fast thus allowing it to score high in the point totals since the formula multiplies vehicle and cargo mass by speed. The vehicle had the highest point total, like the other vehicles was well engineered and took an innovative approach to circuit design.

Other entrants in the electric vehicle competition included a light-built balsa framed vehicle from Harriton, a K’nex fabricated car from Pennsbury and a uniquely designed entry from Penncrest that used a plastic beaker for hauling payload.

The EEVC awarded the 2020 Ron Groening Memorial Award to the students from Friends Select for their electric model truck. Congratulations to students Akhilesh, Arden, Andrew, Kaiyuaa and team coach Mike Primo. Thank you and congratulations to all who fielded a model electric truck in the electric vehicle competition.

The EEVC in association with Flat Earth Productions has produced a video of the event including the awards and Afterparty.