University of Vermont

College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Aiken Challenge

Aiken Engineering Challenge

Saturday, December 1, 2018 at Davis Center, UVM

The Aiken Engineering Challenge is a program supported by the University of Vermont George D. Aiken Lectures that aims to involve young Vermonters in engineering and technology, a topic that long interested Senator Aiken.

Students will build a device to meet an engineering challenge and compete with their device at an event held at UVM. This year the event will be on Saturday, December 1, at the Davis Center. The creators of the Champlain Maker Faire and the University of Vermont will host Vermont's statewide K-12 Maker Faire and workshops the same day as the Aiken Challenge.

This challenge is an achievable one and can be solved using ordinary hand tools, readily available materials, and components that most schools already have, and for a reasonable cost, but there is real engineering involved. The students will need to analyze the problem, consider a variety of solutions, build a trial device, test it, make improvements, and build a final design that is robust and reliable. The challenge is structured so that almost any team can achieve some success, but it is not easy to win.

Students experience hands-on learning and engineering thought, both necessary to solve any number of contemporary real-world challenges in energy, agriculture, the environment, and communication.

The 2018 Challenge

The object of the game is to build a "crane" which can place ping-pong balls in a variety of targets.

This year is primarily a mechanical challenge. It is called "The Crane Game." An illustration of the game is shown below.

The cranes will play on a field approximately 3' x 7', as defined by a wood lattice. Two teams will be paired randomly to play against each other; each team will play three or four matches, against a different opponent each time. A match runs five minutes.

The cranes must be controlled with a remote linkage, which can be mechanical, electrical, wireless, or a combination thereof.

The Teams place their cranes on the playing field as shown. Teams use the cranes to pick up ping-pong balls and place them in the various targets, which vary in difficulty. There is also a cooperation target; if teams successfully cooperate to fill that target in a required pattern they will both earn a points bonus.

A team's score is based on the number of balls scored and the difficulty of the targets in which they have been scored. There is bonus for winning the match, plus the cooperation bonus if earned. The points for each match are totaled, and the top four teams at the end of the qualification rounds will compete in a playoff round.


  • Teams consist of 2 to 5 students in 5th through 12th grade.
  • Teams can be either high school or middle school teams.
  • Each team must have an adult coach, who need not be a teacher.
  • Groups such as home-schoolers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H groups, and ad-hoc groups are encouraged to participate.
  • Teams from New Hampshire and New York may participate.
  • A school or group may enter more than one team.


A number of awards will be given, including awards for the best performance and for the best engineering presentation.

Official Rules

The Official Rules for this year's challenge can be found here.


All teams must register on-line, but there is no cost to register. The form for registering your team can be found here.. The registration deadline is November 1, a month before the event. We encourage teams to register early, even if you don't yet have a team name or know all the participants.

Question and Answer System

You may post a question about the rules or anything else to Questions posted and the answers to them can be found here.

Last modified November 16 2018 01:41 PM