2012 Official Rules

Gravity Games Advisory

The following is important information for participants in the upcoming Gravity Games

Check the NC Gravity Games FAQ frequently! This is where clarification will be posted for specific rule questions received from teams.

2) To All Racers: Protective wear. Although all racers will be required to have helmets and appropriate foot-wear, don't forget appropriate clothing as well. The rules state "no loose fitting or dangerous attire will be permitted," but you might also want to consider protective clothing as well, such as a leather jacket and knee/elbow pads.

3) To racers using All American Soap Box Derby kits: Cables. During a recent test run, a kit car had a problem with the brake cable interfering with the steering cables. While there were no injuries, the car did not successfully make it down the hill. Please examine your car and make sure these cables are run properly and do not impede each other.

4) To any teams using pre-built kits (such as the All American Soap Box Derby kits): The combined weight of your car and driver must be less than the maximum weight rating from the manufacturer.  Any vehicles or car/driver combos that exceed this weight will be disqualified.

5) Due to concerns with executing education grants, we have had to cancel the plan to award STEM grants to winning teams.  Instead, the winning team members will receive individual prizes.

Best of luck on April 28th!
-The Google/ASU Team



Description: With funding from Google in cooperation with Appalachian State University, this competition will provide students from levels of middle and high school, college/university, and corporate competitors an opportunity to design and construct cars powered by potential energy sources, and compete against other teams for the fastest time.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.


  • To have a fun, educational, inspirational, and competitive event that allows hands-on engineering

  • To enable students and professionals the opportunity to interact

  • To unite members of the community in an environment of fair competition and celebration

  • To develop an engaging competition and event that can be replicated for the future

  • To explore and demonstrate potential energy propulsion systems

Mission Statement

The Gravity Games strives to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with real-life application through construction and competition of a downhill racing event. The Games foster community engagement through sponsorship and will award prizes to the winning teams. The competition focuses on the design, construction, and racing of a potential energy powered vehicle, on a downhill course.


Judging Committee - The Judging Committee will be comprised of representatives from Google, NC, Appalachian State University, and Lenoir public officials. This committee will be responsible for inspecting each car, participant, and race track for adequate safety and security. The Judging Committee has the final say on whether or not one may participate in the competition.

Rules and Regulations

Violations of the rules outlined below can result in disqualification of a participant and/or team, at the Judging Committee’s discretion.


  • Gravity Only – A race powered by gravitational potential energy. Any student from age 10-18 is welcome to participate.
    • There will be a maximum of 48 teams in this category. Registration is first come, first serve.
  • Open Powered – A race powered by any form of potential energy. Team members must be at least 10 years of age to participate.
    • There will be a maximum of 30 teams in this category. Registration is first come, first serve.

Registration information will be posted online at www.ncgravitygames.com.  Registration must be received by April 15th, 2012.

Parental Consent / Waivers

  • Participants ages 10-18 (at the time of the competition) are required to have parent or guardian consent or driver must be 18 years old (at the time of competition).

  • All participants age 18 and over must have a signed waiver on file prior to the race.

Weight Limitations

  • Gravity Only - Car and driver weight limit: 300 lbs

    To any teams using pre-built kits (such as the All American Soap Box Derby kits): The combined weight of your car and driver must be less than the maximum weight rating from the manufacturer.  Any vehicles or car/driver combos that exceed this weight will be disqualified.

  • Powered – Car weight limit: 400 lbs (without driver)

Size Limitations

    Maximum size varies by division. The dimensions of the car must not exceed:

  • Gravity Only - 4’ wide x 8' long x 6' high
  • Powered/Open – 6’ wide x 8' long x 7' high


  • Participants must wear adequate foot protection covering sole, toe, and heel while racing

  • Participants must wear certified protective helmets in their proper position on the head.

    • Head wear must be inspected and cleared by the Safety Committee.

    • Helmet approved for bicycle, derby, or motorcycle use is required.

  • Participants must wear adequate and appropriate clothing. No loose fitting or dangerous attire will be permitted.


  • Participants must not use, possess, or distribute alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, with the exception of those prescribed by a physician specifically for that person.
  • Verbal or physical abuse and/or unsportsmanlike conduct will not be permitted, whether directed towards another participant, official, and/or spectator.
  • No firearms will be permitted on the field of conduct.

  • Competitors will not attempt to gain an unfair advantage over another participant.


  • All cars and material components are subject to inspection and subsequent disqualification by the Safety Committee if deemed harmful or potentially dangerous.

  • No chemical or electrical engines allowed.

Car Eligibility

  • Gravity may be the only propulsion source in the Gravity Only division.

  • Gravity and potential mechanical energy may be the only propulsion mechanisms in the Open Powered division.

  • No human powered cars or engines will be permitted. Other than acceleration due to gravity, no external propulsive energy may be added to the drive system after the start of the race (i.e., all energy must be potential energy that is “pre-charged” before the start gate drops).

○ Examples of allowed propulsion systems

■ Springs

■ Counterweights

■ Elastic bands

■ Flywheels (mechanically spun)

■ Manually pressurized hydraulics or pneumatics

○ Forbidden propulsion systems

■ Chemical engines (gasoline, diesel, etc)

■ Electromagnetic (batteries, electric motors, etc)

■ Nuclear (fission or fusion)

■ Any combustion-based motor

■ Pedals (human-powered)

■ Animal powered (mules, dogs, hamsters)

  • The potential mechanical energy must be able to be manually charged between heats in as little as 20 minutes by 2 team members without using any charging mechanism that requires or previously required electricity (ie: compressed gas cylinder).

  • The potential mechanical energy can only be engaged by the driver at the starting line (no additional team members are allowed at the starting line)

  • For the Gravity Only division, team members must take part in the construction of his or her car; an adult mentor is permitted to assist in the construction of the car, but the majority of the work should be completed by the team members. The judges will have discretion to evaluate and disqualify obvious violations of this rule.

  • A minimum of three wheels are required to remain in contact with the ground at all times.

  • Each car needs to be able to steer and stop in a reasonable distance (whether a car meets these criteria will be determined by the Safety Committee).

  • The car may be decorated and painted as long as this does not break any of the rules nor interfere with safety of the participant or other competitors.

  • Modification, alteration, or tampering with the car after inspection is only allowed with the approval and the supervision of the Safety Committee.

  • Each car and driver must be inspected and approved by the Safety Committee before racing. The Safety Committee may postpone, restrict, or disqualify any participant or car deemed to be unsafe to race. The Safety Committee does not need to provide explanation for disqualification and has the final say in eligibility of all cars, participants and teams competing in the Games.


  • Each car must accelerate from a standstill by gravity and/or self-contained approved mechanical sources without the aid of external propulsion devices including human power.
  • Participants must remain in the car until all cars have crossed the finish line.
  • Participants may not interfere with other cars or drivers.
  • If the car is not drivable at the time of the race, the round will be considered a forfeit.


The Gravity Only division will be run using a bracket system with initial time trial.

  • The first round will be a time trial. The competitors will then be ranked, paired, and placed into a tournament bracket .
  • The second round will be a two car head-to-head race, determined by the time trial (first) round. The victor will move on to face another second round competitor.
  • The competition will progress in a single-elimination style bracket until the final two cars remain.
  • The final round will be a best two-out-of-three competition run head-to-head.
  • Cars will start at 5 minute intervals during the competition. Teams that are not in place at the start of their heat will receive a loss for that heat.
  • NOTE: Depending on the number of applicants, the first round may be eliminated and the pairings determined by random drawing. Teams will be notified of this decision soon after the registration is closed.
The Open Powered division will be run on an absolute time basis.
  • Each team will get two attempts
  • The fastest time for each team will be compared.  
  • The team with the fastest time will be declared the winner. Second and third place will be determined respectively.
  • Heats will start at 5 minute intervals during the competition. Teams that are not in place at the start of their heat will receive no time for that attempt.

Race Track

  • The Open Powered course will run a straight track along Church Street in Lenoir from the church parking lot to the cross street of Harper Avenue.
  • The Gravity Only course will run down Ashe Street starting at Church Street, heading East.

Starting and Finishing

  • Electronic sensors will provide precision for start and finish timing.

Judging Criteria

There will be awards given to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place team in each division for each category:

  1. Speed - First to cross the finish line. See “Racing” and “Heats".
  2. Design - Quality, Artistic expression, Use of materials, aesthetics (rubric is below). Photos of each car must be submitted to the creativity judging staff by April 17th via an email attachment to gravitygames@appstate.edu for preliminary judging purposes. Final creativity judging will be performed on the day of the event.
    1. Creativity:  Is the idea original (not a copy of something else)? Does the idea show that you are skillful  at
      inventing something new?
    2. Form: Is the design really cool to look at?  Will people think it looks different and interesting?
    3. Function: Are the controls easy to use?  Does the passenger fit in well?  Is the passenger comfortable?
    4. Craftsmanship:  Are the details of the design as perfect as they can be?  Do all the parts work perfectly
      together?  Do all the parts of the design work together visually?
  3. Engineering - Mechanical design, novelty of propulsion system, creative engineering solutions. This category is only for the Open Powered division. Judging will be based on an assessment of the propulsion mechanism used for powered vehicles. A write-up of the propulsion system must be submitted to the creativity judging staff by April 17th via an email attachment to contact@ncgravitygames.com for preliminary judging purposes. Final engineering judging will be performed on the day of the event.

Competition Timeline

Registration starts : 8:30 a.m.

Timeline for individual division registration and racing will be distributed to all teams 2 weeks before the event dependent on the number of teams competing.

Awards to follow after completion of all races.