Fly Your Ride! Flying Car Competition

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Build a flying car! Sounds complicated? It’s not.

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, 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 30, 2018. The competition dates for Middle School entries is April 28, 2018. High School entries will compete on May 5, 2018. Check below for more details!

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

The idea is simple: build a vehicle, release it down a ramp, and see if it can land safely on the other side of the gap. It can't be too big, it can't be too expensive, and it can't be too dangerous, but the rest is up to you and your imagination.

If the thrill of creating your own airborne masterpiece isn't enough, cash prizes will be awarded for creativity and distance, thanks to support from SDG&E, the ISTAT Foundation, and the Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation.


There are two age ranges in the competition:

  • Middle School - grades 6-8
  • High School - grades 9-12.


  • Creativity – What was it about your design that was new, special, or original? We award prizes for creative thinking, even if your vehicle doesn't go the distance.
  • Distance – We will award a prize for the vehicle that jumps the widest gap and is able to land within the planes established by the ramp on the other side.

PRIZES (one for each age category):

1st place - distance: $750
2nd place - distance: $500
3rd place - distance: $350
Creativity in engineering: $350
Creativity in design: $350

Download 2018 competition flyer

Stage 1: Gather your crew

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 to help facilitate your meetings and to submit the paperwork, not to generate your ideas or create your vehicle for you. 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 2: Design your ride

You will need to submit your initial design to us no later than 5 PM PST on January 30, 2018. Each student can only be on one team, and only one design can be submitted per team. Each submission must include the following:

  • Student name(s), 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 it made 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 just 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 email to or mailed to the SDASM Education Department, 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101, and must be postmarked by January 30, 2018. 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 3: Tinker. Tailor. Solder. Fly?

Time to get serious about turning your blueprint into a reality. Our judging team will evaluate your entry, and choose which teams can move forward to the next stage. Teams will be notified of their entry status by February 20, 2018.

Once you get the go ahead to start building, 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 4: The big day!

Competition Dates:
Middle School - April 28, 2018
High School - May 5, 2018

We’ll hold the competition finals at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and see just how far your ride can glide! We’ll pick the winners and award prizes.


Vehicle Specifications

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.
  • The majority, if not all, of your vehicle should be made from original materials and should be of your own design (no model kits, pre-made cars, following instructions for a kit, etc.). 3D printed parts are allowed; however, they should make up no more than 20% of the overall design.
  • 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.
  • Any item that is intentionally designed to be shed from your vehicle during launch must be declared before the competition and must not damage the surface of the ramp. Judges will evaluate the safety of the design before allowing the vehicle on the ramp.
  • Your vehicle cannot have internal electric power (no remote control cars, for example), gas power (including compressed air, however balloons are allowed), or solar power. It may not 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.
  • No mousetrap cars. The judges are looking for creativity in engineering; we know that one works, show us something new!
  • Remember: An entry should not cost more than $30 in parts, maximum. Using recycled materials may be a way to keep your costs down.

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.
  • Wheel and axles can protrude no more than 2 inches from the vehicle if the vehicle is already at its maximum core size.
  • If you wish (and you do not have to) we will allow you to add wing-like protrusions from the side or top of your vehicle. No matter the core size of your vehicle, these extensions cannot:
    • raise the overall height of your vehicle by more than 2 inches
    • extend further than the front of your vehicle
    • extend more than 2 inches from the back of your vehicle
    • extend more than 12 inches from the sides of your vehicle (12 inches per side)
  • Balloons, parachutes, and propellers can protrude no more than 12 inches from the vehicle while in flight.

The Ramp

Rules of the ramp

    • As the competition proceeds, the gap will gradually widen, beginning at two feet, then be increased to three feet, then three and a half feet. It will continue to be widened six inches at a time, at judge discretion, to choose a winner.
    • Unless it is physically impossible or unsafe to do so, the student that is competing needs to drop their own car. A stepladder will be provided on competition day.
    • The vehicle has to run down the entire launch ramp, and can only take off from the end.
    • The majority of your car (by volume) and all of its wheels must make it to the other side of the gap in order to advance. Boundaries will be set on each side of the ramp. Whether landing on or overshooting the ramp, at touchdown, the majority of your car and all of its wheels must be within the planes established by the sides of the ramp.
    • 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.

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

We love creative ideas, and we understand that the rules listed above may not cover every possibility that innovative student minds might come up with. We’re hoping, in fact, that 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 reserve the right to amend the above specifications to ensure the safety of all participants and encourage you to contact us during your design process if you are unsure whether your design would be allowed.

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!

Please feel free to contact the contest coordinator, Sophie Wasserman (, with any further questions or clarifications.

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

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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