The task was straightforward: Build a roller coaster.
Out of paper and tape.
With no plans in hand at the start.
At least three feet tall with either a loop or a jump in the design.
In two hours.
In the second year of the Marble Roller Coaster Competition, hosted by the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, almost 100 students from local middle and high schools spent 20 minutes brainstorming a design, then had 80 minutes to build it and make it work.
Each team was given the following supplies and nothing more:
- A glass marble
- 500-sheet pack of printer paper
- Pair of scissors
- Roll of Scotch tape
- Three-foot ruler
- 20×30-inch foam core base
Coasters were judged on how many times the marble made it all the way through and how fast it completed each run. The creativity of the roller coaster design also was rated.
For the second year in a row, Ivy Academy won first place in the Middle School division. Sequoyah High School won the top spot in the High School category.
In 2022, Lauren Meyer, a senior in mechanical engineering at UTC, came up with the Marble Roller Coaster Competition—which is organized, designed and run by students—as a way to show prospective students that there are many different layers to engineering.
“Fun is definitely the No. 1 priority in the contest, but also that they get to start knowing about the engineering design process and that they know that engineering isn’t something that’s boring,” said Meyer, a graduate of Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
At the 2023 competition, boredom was not a factor.
The second the “Go!’ was declared, conversation blanketed the University Center Tennessee Room. In teams of three to four, students discussed—or argued about—design strategies. They shushed each other to get their ideas into the conversation. They started building.
“It works every time!” one student said, trying to convince his teammates of a design element.
“Why does this not work?” an agonized voice cried on a different team.
- Brown Middle School
- East Lake Academy
- East Hamilton Middle School
- Signal Mountain Middle/High schools
- Ivy Academy Middle School
- Kingda Ka Kings (Homeschool)
- Chattanooga School of Arts & Sciences Middle School
- Skyuka Hall
- Orchard Knob Middle School
- Signal Mountain Middle School
- Soddy-Daisy Middle School
- Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
- Ivy Academy High School
- Sequoyah High School
- Chattanooga School of Arts & Sciences High School
- Ooltewah High School
- Red Bank High School
Winning Teams: Middle School
- First: Ivy Academy Middle School (second year in a row)
- Second: Signal Mountain Middle School*
- Third: Signal Mountain Middle School*
- *(Two separate groups of students)
Winning Teams: High School
- First: Sequoyah High School
- Second: Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (second year in a row)
- Third: Signal Mountain High School
UTC student coordinators of Marble Roller Coaster Competition
- Lauren Meyer
- Nathaniel Andrews
- Meeya Lowery
- Blake Sweeney