2012 Inter-Chapter Challenge

The 1st Annual National ESW Engineering Tournament will be hosted at the ESW National Conference in Fall 2012. Its purpose to bring together Engineers for a Sustainable World from across the nation in the spirit of friendly competition! We see this challenge as an opportunity to create a fun and innovative community beyond the borders of the campus.
This year’s challenge will be to design a remote controlled car which focuses on two sustainable technologies: solar cells and super-capacitors.
The rules for the competition are listed below, along with prizes and scoring mechanisms. If you have questions along the way, email info@eswusa.org and we'll point your question in the right direction!
This competition was spearheaded by Derek Chung (UCSD) and Zach Wilhoit (UT-Austin), along with Mike Alcazaren (UB), Andrew Chung (RPI), and Stephen Ho (UC Merced). The national team provided some basic support, but credit should go to these folks - along with any frustration at the rules!
Good luck!



The intent of the build is to build an untethered remote controlled (r/c) car which can navigate a variety of obstacles.
The car is to be wholly solar powered, allowing it to be operated indefinitely so long as it is receiving light. Furthermore, the vehicle should incorporate the emerging energy storage technology of super-capacitors. Possible applications for this technology include providing an energy buffer to be used for a quick burst of speed and to propel the vehicle through small regions of darkness.
*Important clarification posted 9/12/2012--The remote can use batteries, but the car cannot.


The vehicle must:
  • Use solar cells as its only source of power
  • Incorporate at least one super-capacitor as a form of energy storage
The vehicle must NOT:
  • Utilize a battery, a fuel cell, combustion, or any form of pre-stored chemical energy
  • Contain stored potential energy for propulsion (a ribbon spring, a slingshot, etc.)
  • Have wires leading to an external entity (no attached remote, all panels on chassis)

Build Specifications

  • Dimensions: The vehicle must fit in a 30.5cm x 30.5 cm x 30.5cm cube.
  • Budget: $150 maximum
  • Originality: The vehicle MAY be a modification of an existing R/C car, as long as the
    modifications are both original work and significant. However, fully custom designs will be
  • Range: The vehicle should have a R/C range of at least 10m.
  • Operating Conditions: The vehicle will be tested outside on pavement. Anticipate possibly
    cloudy conditions, though sunny conditions will be preferred.


Your team’s build will have a maximum budget of up to $150 for materials, including the
cost of a purchased base car (if used). It is up to your team to source that budget from your
chapter. You are required to document your expenditures by collecting all material receipts and
bringing them with your car for verification pre-race. If a part is not documented, its price will
be estimated by judges during verification. Expenditures relating to labor, equipment rental,
and shipping do not need to be documented and do not count toward your budget. Note that going over-
budget will result in penalties.
The competition is designed to have a low budget to keep it accessible for all chapters.
Nevertheless, limited funding will be available to teams who can demonstrate extenuating

External Resources

Take advantage of resources available at your university! Seek advice from professors and
utilize software and machine shops. However, your team must do as much of the design and
labor is possible. Having a single part machined is fine; having the shop assemble the entire
chassis is not. Asking a professor how to hook up a component is fine; asking a professor to
design the electrical subsystem is not.


Timed Obstacle Course
Points will be awarded for successful completion of obstacles and for the speed of course completion.
Teams will be given design specifications for the obstacles 1 month before the competition for practice obstacles.
Teams will have the opportunity to practice on the official course.
Each obstacle may be attempted only once.
Slope: A wide, angled platform with a 20° ascending slope, then a plateau, then a 20° descent.
Bridge: A raised platform, 35cm wide and 3m long.
Shade: A covered tunnel, 35cm wide, 35cm tall, and 1m long.
Cones: A series of 5 markers, 0.5m apart, that must be driven in between in succession.
More: More obstacles can be created by the hosting chapter!
Drag Race
25m sprint.
Tournament bracket:
- Four cars will race at a time
- The top two cars will qualify for the next round
- The bottom two cars will be eliminated
Endurance Race
Circular loop, 500m.
All cars will be raced simultaneously.
Mid-race adjustments/repairs NOT allowed.


Six judges (three from national team and three from the advisory board) will vote for subjective
categories of engineering excellence beyond performance and control.
  • Originality: Does this design stand out from the competition?
  • Design Excellence: Does the design accomplish something technically impressive?
  • Appearance: How professional the vehicle appears. Would this be ready for market?
  • Sustainability: How well the vehicle is able to operate indefinitely.
The draft scoring rubric is available for download here (pdf).


1st Place -- $500
2st Place -- $200
3st Place -- $100
Best in Category -- $50 (If separate from overall winner)
  • Obstacle Course
  • Drag Race
  • Endurance Race
  • Originality
  • Design
  • Appearance
  • Sustainability