Energy Transfer Machine on Video Rules

The Energy Transfer (ET) Machine on Video competition provides a hands-on opportunity for elementary, middle and high school students to use their STEM skills in a fun and creative way. Student teams are challenged to transform everyday materials into unusual, Rube Goldberg – type machines that accomplish a team-specified task at the one minute mark using a variety of energy transfers including power from a battery. The team must also videotape their ET Machine performing its various energy transfers and its final specified task from start to finish, and submit their video for judging as described below.

Competition Guidelines

  1. The Energy Transfer Machine competition is comprised of three divisions, elementary, (3rd – 5th) middle (6th – 8th grades) and high (9th -12th grades) school.
  2. Teams are composed of at least two (2) and a maximum of six (6) students.
  3. Two or more team members must be present or available online for video interviews to answer questions on the day of the competition.
  4. The team’s ET Machine is not to be transported to the competition; therefore its size, shape and dimensions are not limited. However, it must be designed so that it is possible to videotape the performance of the ET Machine from start to finish from a single video camera without using cuts or edits in the taping.
  5. All teams must submit a design form to Failure to submit a design form will result in a 10 point deduction from the team’s Design Judging score.

Machine Specifications

The machine shall:

  1. perform a team-specified operation at the one (1) minute mark as the final step of the machine
  2. have a minimum of five (5) steps in completing its team-specified task with at least one (1) step powered by electricity provided by batteries (not to exceed a total of 9 volts)
  3. be any size, shape or dimension
  4. demonstrate a series of energy transfers. Identical transfers of energy in succession (such as a row of dominoes falling into each other) should be considered one step
  5. not use any actual timing devices manufactured for that purpose
  6. be constructed solely of parts provided by the team. Individualized components may be purchased, but the entire timing apparatus must be designed, assembled and when possible, fabricated by the students. All component and fabrication choices must also be made by student team members
  7. not use animals, hazardous materials, explosives or flames
  8. not imply nor convey profane, indecent or lewd expressions
  9. be safe and not harm team members, spectators or equipment

The machine may:

  1. use programmable logic controllers or any other electronic controller; however, the programmable logic controller must not use any internal timer

Video Specifications:

  1. At least one team member is required to clearly narrate and be on-screen in the introductory segment. (Non-team members on-screen will result in disqualification)
  2. In the introductory segment, the narrator(s) will state:
    1. School name
    2. Division
    3. Project name
    4. How electricity is used in their machine
    5. Describe the various steps and energy transfers of their machine
    6. What it will do as its final task at the 1 minute mark
  3. As the steps and energy transfers are described, those areas of the machine pertaining to that step should be pointed to by the narrator (or other team member) and shown in the camera view. This sequence may not exceed 3 minutes in duration or points will be deducted. At the beginning of the machine sequence of the video, the announcer will say, “Ready, Set, Go” for the official timing process to begin
  4. No edits are allowed to the machine portion of the video from the point where the narrator says, “Ready, Set, Go” to the completion of the ET Machine’s final task. A complete run must be documented in this fashion. Any edits to this portion of the video will be grounds for disqualification.
  5. If any team member interacts with, interferes, or assists their machines once time has started, the machine timing (for precision) will stop at that point.
  6. The clock will be stopped and time recorded when the team designated, one-minute, final task occurs.
  7. It is expected that the video of your most successful run (from start to finish – no edits) will be submitted for judging on competition day. Take advantage of the opportunity to videotape your machine multiple times to get the best run documented.
  8. The video should be uploaded to by 5:00 p.m. 15 days before EnergyWhiz and the YouTube link emailed to to be eligible for judging. A confirmation email stating that we have received your video link will be sent within 2 business days.
  9. Finalists will be notified via email by one week after the submission deadline.

Tips for better quality ETM videos:
(The quality of the video doesn’t impact scoring, but it does make it more enjoyable to watch)

  1. Turn your phone on it’s side. Wide videos look better on screen.
  2. Speak up! Pretend you are on a stage and you need to talk to a person who is in the back of the auditorium.
  3. Light it up. Turn on all available lights. If you are outside, make sure the sun is to the back of the camera operator.
  4. High Quality. Record the video at the largest size and highest quality settings available. When you export it from your video editing program, don’t compress it too heavily. Upload a large video file to maintain the quality.

Energy Transfer Machine Awards

1st, 2nd & 3rd place awards will be given in each division for Best Design. These awards will be decided by points awarded for:

  • number of energy transfer steps
  • complexity and technical sophistication of machine
  • use of the electricity from the battery
  • precision – how close the team defined end task came to the one minute mark
  • creativity, originality, unconventional material use and design aesthetics
  • team knowledge
  • clear and effective communication skills
  • clarity of the video to effectively showcase the ET machine’s operation

One 1st place award will be given out for Precision, this is the team that accomplishes their specified task closest to the target 1 minute mark, as determined by our judges.