Fly Your Ride! Competition

Build a flying car!

Sounds complicated? It’s not.

Along with SDG&E, we’re looking for students who want to build a vehicle no larger than a shoebox, launch it down a ramp, and see if it can jump a gap. It’s fun, it’s creative, and you don’t have to be a science fair genius to come up with a winning entry. We’ll give you feedback, create opportunities to talk to experts, and give away great prizes.

Students from 6th through 12th grade in San Diego County are encouraged to take part. Blueprints are due January 27, 2015 and competition day is April 11, 2015—- check below for more details!


Welcome to the Flying Car competition! We are looking forward to seeing your imaginative ideas.

The idea, and the rules, are simple. Build a vehicle, let it slide down a ramp, and see if it can jump a gap! Everything else is details – and here are those details.

Vehicle Measurements

  • The overall size of the core of your vehicle can be no more than 16 by 8 by 5 inches – the size of a larger shoe box.
  • The majority, if not all, of your vehicle should be made from your own materials and should be of your own design (no model kits, pre-made cars, following instructions for a kit, etc.). In the blueprint stage, the judges are looking for vehicles made using originality and materials that were mostly not intended to make toys or vehicles of any kind. We encourage you to recycle, and to use materials in way they were not originally designed for. At this point, we cannot allow 3D printers to be used as a large number of students do not have access to them. However, if you would like to test one of these vehicles on our ramp, please let us know at the contact listed below!
  • If you wish (and you do not have to) we will also allow you to add wing-like protrusions from the side or top of your vehicle. They cannot raise the overall height of your vehicle by more than 2 inches. They cannot extend further than the front of your vehicle, or more than 2 inches from the back. They cannot extend more than 12 inches from the sides of your vehicle (12 inches per side).
  • Wheel and axles can protrude no more than 2 inches from the vehicle if the vehicle is already at its maximum core size.
  • Balloons, parachutes, and propellors can protrude no more than 12 inches from the vehicle while in flight.

Ramp Details

  • Our ramp is 6 feet and 1/2 inch tall by 2 feet and 9 inches wide, and it is 6 feet long.
  • The top platform of the ramp is 11 inches by 2 feet and 9 inches.
  • The ramp surface, from top to jump, is 9 feet.
  • The length of the drop from the top to the beginning of the radius is 4 feet and 9 inches with a 70 degree incline.
  • The curve is an 18 inch radius, and the exit angle or release angle is 28 degrees.
  • The landing ramp is 1 foot and 7 inches high (equal to the end of the jump ramp) by 2 feet and 9 inches wide, and the length of the landing ramp is 4 feet and 5 1/2 inches.
  • The ramp cannot be altered during the competition (such as water or grease being added to the ramp).
  • If you would like to make your own ramp and need more measurements, please contact us at the email address given below.

Use of the ramp during the competition

  • The ramp will gradually be widened as the competition proceeds. The gap will begin at two feet, then be increased to three feet, then three and a half feet. If necessary, it will continue to be widened a half foot at a time, at judge discretion, to choose a winner.
  • The vehicle can overshoot the landing ramp and land on the floor; however, it does have to fly over the landing ramp. It cannot veer off to the left or right of the ramp.
  • The vehicle has to run down the entire launch ramp, and can only take off from the end.
  • Teams will be allowed extra time to modify their vehicle as the ramp distance changes if they request it, but will only be given four minutes per round to do so. Timing will be at the discretion of the judges.

Vehicle Materials and Power

  • Your vehicle can be as heavy or as light as you like. It can be made out of any material (as long as it is considered safe by the judging committee). It can have wheels, or not.
  • Your vehicle can have some internal power, or not. The power cannot be electric (no remote control cars, for example), gas powered (including compressed air, other than balloons), solar powered, or use any other kind of fuel source (including chemical, such as soda and mentos).
  • No flame of any kind can be used. Helium can be used under adult supervision, but liquid gasses cannot be used.
  • It can use internally-wound tension, such as a rubber band or a spring, or it can use the gravity of the slope alone. The ramp will not have a backboard so your vehicle will not be able to “push” off anything to begin (for example, a large spring).
  • Teams will be allowed to prepare their vehicle (for example, winding a spring or blowing up a balloon) before releasing it at the top of the ramp.
  • The vehicle is not allowed to spill anything (such as water), dig into the ramp surface, or otherwise do anything that might damage the ramp surface.
  • Your entire vehicle has to make it across the gap and touch the ramp surface on the other side.

We love creative ideas, and we understand that the rules listed above may not cover every possibility that creative student minds might come up with. We’re hoping, in fact, that the students are so creative that they will come up with ideas that have never occurred to us! The judging committee will evaluate every vehicle from a safety and originality point of view. We encourage you to contact us during your design process if you are unsure whether your design would be allowed.

STAGE ONE (ends January 27, 2015):

You’ll need to form your team – which can be from one to five students. You’ll also need an adult coach (it can be a teacher, parent, or other adult in a role of responsibility in your life). Their role is not to give you ideas or create your vehicle for you, but instead to help you meet and to submit the paperwork. Only one adult can be listed as a coach, although we understand that more than one adult may be involved in hosting meetings, helping with power tools, etc.

STAGE TWO (now until January 27, 2015):

You will need to submit your initial design to us. A person can be on only one team, and only one design can be submitted per team. This is what you will need to submit:

  • Your name, grade, coach’s name, and either an e-mail or mailing address so we can stay in contact with you throughout the competition.
  • A drawing or photo of your design (you don’t need to have made it yet to enter, but you’ll need to have a detailed design draft). This can be no bigger than one side of an 11X17 sheet of paper, and should have the parts of the vehicle labeled to explain how it works. All measurements need to be labeled. Please make a copy for your own records.
  • An itemized budget for your items, because we want to see creativity, not the team with the most money, winning! If items are donated or already in your possession, an estimated value should be placed on them. Using recycled or scrapped items may be a way to keep your costs down. An entry should not cost more than $30 in parts, maximum.

Your entry can be submitted via mail to the SDASM Education Department, 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101, and must be postmarked by January 27, 2015. It can also be emailed to Please make sure you keep the original and send us a copy. We cannot be held responsible for entries lost in the mail or not received via email.

STAGE THREE (January 27 - April 10, 2015):

Our judging team will then evaluate your entry, and choose which teams can move forward to the next stage.

You will then have the opportunity (at your request) to talk to our experts. They may be able to provide advice on modifying your vehicle. This contact must be made via the competition organizers, and not directly with the experts.

STAGE FOUR (April 11, 2015):

The big day! We’ll hold the competition finals at the museum, and see how your car does on the ramp! We’ll then pick the winners and award the prizes!


The ramp will gradually be widened as the competition proceeds. The gap will begin at two feet, then be increased to three feet, then three and a half feet. If necessary, it will continue to be widened a half foot at a time, at judge discretion, to narrow down to a winner.

Distance – We will award a prize for the vehicle that jumps the widest gap and is able to touch the horizontal ramp surface on the other size.

Creativity – What was it about your design that was new, special, or original? We’ll award a prize for original thinking, even if that vehicle does not jump the gap furthest.


There are two age ranges in the competition:

Grades 6-8

Grades 9-12.


First prize (one per age range): $600

Second prize (one per age range): $400

Third prize (one age range): $200

Creativity prize (two per age range): $200

We reserve the option to keep and display your entries in the museum and/or other venues, including online. We would love to show off your success!

Good luck and we will see you at the San Diego Air & Space Museum!


San Diego Air & Space Museum

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