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The Inventor's Challenge
2004 Show Dates
May 17
May 18
May 19
May 20
Open to Public
May 21
Open to Public


Physics Circus 2004 will challenge participants to think about physics and to create inventions using a pre-selected set of materials and tools. However, it is important to remember that the most important tools are your thinking tools - questions you ask yourself so that you can keep an open mind and think inventively. They are strategies or rules of thumb for generating ideas and solving problems.

"The Inventor's Challenge" consists of three steps -

  1. brainstorming
  2. asking questions and thinking inventively
  3. building the invention
These three steps must be accomplished within a specified timeline. Each day fifteen (15) teams of five (5) students will compete for prizes based upon design, style, functionality, and teamwork.

All teams will have kitchen, craft, hardware and office materials available to them including, but not limited to, items listed below:

Paper plates wire Yarn
Foil pie pans fishing line pins
Popsicle sticks toilet paper tubes Coat hangers
Marbles film canisters tape
Etc, etc, etc...

Each day of the Physics Circus, teams will be given an "inventor's challenge" in which they create inventions using the materials provided (there will be many more items then listed above). Think of "The Inventor's Challenge" in the following terms:

  • Think in terms of sand clocks, water clocks, shadow clocks, pendulum clocks, or clocks with gears.
  • Think in terms of hot-air balloons, parachutes, jets and rockets. Also remember two very important physics principles and laws: "Fast-moving air exerts less pressure than slow-moving air" (Daniel Bernoulli) and "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" (Sir Isaac Newton)
  • Think in terms of an engine (can be battery powered), a drive shaft, wheels (don't limit your imagination to 4 wheels) and axles, and steering mechanisms.
  • Think in terms of string, wind, percussion, or keyboard instruments. Remember that all sound is vibration and different shapes and sizes can generate different vibrations.
  • Think in terms of First-Class, Second-Class and Third-Class Levers. An example is our arms where our elbows act as the fulcrum and our muscles provide the work to lift the object.

While reviewing these challenges, think of all of the different things lying around in your classroom or at home that you might use to create your inventions. For instance, how might you use a straw, a wooden (or plastic) spool from a sewing kit, rubber bands, popsicles sticks, or good old fashion paper? Remember to give your mind free reign over your design. Your creations should be unique. In fact, the more original the better!

Good Luck at "The Inventor's Challenge" during Physics Circus 2004!

We can't wait to see your inventions!