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JPL Annual Invention Challenge - 2002 Rules
The JPL Annual Invention Challenge is ready for its fifth year. The title for this year's contest is the Jellybean Toss Contest. The objective and rules are listed below. Questions related to this contest should be directed to: Paul MacNeal at: work phone (818)354-7824, FAX (818)393-1156, MS 157-500, located in Building 157-510, or e-mail to

Objective: Create a device that launches fifty (50) officially supplied jellybeans into a target located five meters away in less than sixty seconds. The contest winner will be the person whose device generates the highest point total of jellybeans in the target.

  1. The contest is open to all JPL employees, contractors, and immediate family members. Family members and friends are welcome to watch the contest, but must be cleared through the security office prior to arrival. Applications for JPL employees, contractors, and immediate family members entering the contest must be filled out and submitted to Paul MacNeal prior to midnight November 27, 2002. An entry form is included at the end of the rules. All entries will be time stamped by Paul MacNeal based upon the time received. Only the first 25 JPL/contractor entries will be permitted to compete. Five alternates will be accepted in case some entries withdraw prior to the competition.

  2. The contest is also open to teams of students from Southern California middle schools and high schools. School teams must submit their entry form (included at the end of the rules) to Paul MacNeal no earlier than September 20, 2002 and no later than midnight September 30, 2002. Student teams will be notified to verify their acceptance into the contest no later than October 7, 2002. All entries will be time stamped by Paul MacNeal based upon the time received. Questions regarding the entry forms can be directed to Ken Berry at (818)393-5386 or Rich Alvidrez (818)354-1214. Only the first 25 student team entries will be permitted to compete. Five alternate teams will be accepted in case some student teams withdraw prior to the competition. All student teams that participate in the contest must be cleared through the security office prior to arrival.

  3. The contest date and time is Friday, December 6, 2002 between 12:00 and 1:00PM. The contest is held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109. The contest area is located north of the fountain area, in front of the Administration Building (Bldg. 180) steps.

  4. The official jellybeans will be provided on the day of the contest. Each contestant will be supplied with a bag of 50 Jelly Belly® jellybeans a few minutes before the start of their launch round. Each bag will contain jellybeans of the same color. The color will either be blue, red, bright yellow, pale orange, lavender, or dark green with red. Loss of available jellybeans due to inadvertent snacking is the fault of the contestant and will not be replaced. Each jellybean weighs approximately 1.10 grams with a range of +/- 0.10 grams. The overall size of a typical jellybean is 15 millimeters (mm) long and 9 mm in diameter with a slightly bent (banana-like) shape. Jelly Belly® jellybeans are quite consistent in their shape. If for some reason a contestant finds that one or more beans are significantly misshapen (size or weight), a few extra jellybeans of the same color will be available for exchange. Absolutely no modifications to the jellybean(s) are permitted, including melting, freezing, gluing, coating, etc. Jelly Belly® jellybeans are available through most super market chain stores for testing your device. Contact Paul MacNeal if you have trouble locating a source for your practice jellybeans.

  5. The device must have the following characteristics:

    a) The device is an automated mechanical system that propels the jellybean(s) in a direction towards the target (described in Section 6) and does not utilize human contact in any way to propel the jellybean(s). This means that humans, in any way, may not supply the source of energy to propel the jellybeans.

    b) The launch device must have a single operation to initiate a launch. Examples of this include pulling a pin, pushing a button, releasing a latch, etc. No human contact with the jellybean(s) is allowed once the jellybean(s) is placed inside the device.

    c) The launch device must be smaller than 3.0 meters wide and 1.8 meters deep but there is no height restriction. The launch device must remain within the designated launching area (described in Section 7) before, during, and at the end of the launching period. At no time may any part of the device move inside the 10-meter diameter circle. The launch device is defined as anything that is not an officially supplied jellybean.

    d) The launch device will contain an energy method to propel the jellybeans. A powered extension cord will be available. The choice of energy system is optional but has a few restrictions. The energy method must be safe to the contestant and all observers. Unsafe methods of energy, as determined by the contest organizer, will not be allowed to compete. Some examples of disallowed energy methods include explosive reactions, chemical conversions with toxic by-products, and unsafe high-pressure air systems. Questions regarding the acceptability of a candidate energy source can be submitted to the contest organizer for a ruling. Questionable energy sources must be approved by Paul MacNeal prior to November 27, 2002.

    e) The jellybean must leave the launch device at or below the projected horizontal plane of the target (See section 6c for definition of horizontal plane).

    f) The launch device must be adaptable to non-level surfaces (see Section 7).

    g) More than one launch is permitted. Between launches, the contestant may realign their device prior to the launch of a single jellybean or group of jellybeans. Alignments may not be performed while the device is launching any jellybeans. Realignments and launches may be repeated as often as needed as long as the sixty-second time period has not expired.

  6. The target has the appearance of a Skee-Ball target found at many amusement parks. The target will have the following characteristics:

    a) The materials of the target will be Plexiglas and wood. The base will be made of wood and the rings will be made of Plexiglas.

    b) The target will have four concentric ring dividers that have diameters of 15 cm, 45 cm, 75 cm, and 105 cm.

    c) The height of each ring divider will be 15 cm above the base and the top edge of these four ring dividers will create the horizontal plane of the target.

    d) The target will be adjusted so that the horizontal plane of the target is 100 cm above the ground and will be positioned over the center of the target circle. The horizontal plane of the target will be level within one cm accuracy.

    e) A central bonus glass target resides at the exact center of the target. The glass is the official NASA shot glass and has cobalt blue color with a gold NASA emblem. The top rim of the bonus glass is positioned 22.6 cm above the base and has an opening diameter of 4.8 cm. The general shape is that of a narrow shot glass with a depth of 5.7 cm and a curved bottom. The bonus target will be mounted to a 2.5 cm diameter wooden post and will be secured to the base. Figure 1 shows the bonus glass.

    f) The point value for a jellybean remaining in a central bonus glass or ring is as follows:
    i. The central bonus glass has a value of 100 points,
    ii. The central circle has a value of 25 points,
    iii. The second ring has a value of 5 points,
    iv. The third ring has a value of 2 points, and
    v. The fourth (outermost) ring has a value of 1 point.

    g) The bottom of each target zone will be lined with artificial grass to cushion the landing.

    h) Any contestant that has one or more jellybeans remain in the central bonus glass at the end of the launching period will receive an identical glass as a prize.

    i) Figures 2 and 3 show the target geometry.

  7. The contest area is located in front of the steps leading to Building 180. The area is reasonably smooth concrete. The area is not level, with a slope of approximately 2 degrees. Contestants must be adaptable to uneven and non-level surfaces. Absolutely no modifications of the concrete surface are allowed. All devices will be located in one of six colored launch areas. The inner radius of the launch area is 5 meters. The outer radius of the launch area is 7 meters. The six launch areas are equally spaced around the circle and will have the colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and lavender. Observers will be allowed to stand behind the 14-meter diameter circle. Only contestants, judges, and official personnel will be allowed inside the 14-meter circle. No one will be allowed to be within the 10-meter circle during the launching period. Figures 4 and 5 depict the contest area.

  8. As many as three devices will be operating at the same time during any given round. Contestants in red, yellow, and blue areas will operate their devices at the same time. Contestants in the orange, green, and lavender areas will operate their devices at the same time. Each contestant will be assigned to a particular colored area for a given round at the time of check-in. It is the responsibility of the contestant to ensure that they are ready to proceed when it is their turn. All contestants should stay near their designated colored area until they have had their launch opportunity. When instructed by the area monitors, each contestant will be given three minutes to set up their device in their designated area. Absolutely no practice launches of the device will be allowed during the set up period. The official timer will give a fifteen second warning prior to starting the contest. When the starting horn sounds, each contestant will have sixty seconds to fire their device one or more times to deploy the jellybeans into the target. At the end of the sixty-second time period, a second horn will sound indicating the end of the launching period. A five second countdown will precede the second horn. The second horn also starts the beginning of the removal period. Each contestant will have sixty seconds to completely remove his or her device from the designated launching area. Any contestant that launches one or more jellybeans prior to the start of the launching period or after the completion of the launching period will be disqualified.

  9. Points will be awarded to each contestant based on the quantity of jellybeans of their color that remain in the target at the end of the launching period (see Section 6f for point values).

    A partial (less than 50%) jellybean will not be counted. The official scorers will give their results to the announcer and the recorder. Scores will be announced as quickly as possible. Trophies will be divided into two categories: JPL employees/family entries and school entries. Trophies for highest number of points will be given for first, second, and third place for each category. Certificates will be issued for the lightest, heaviest, smallest, largest, most unusual, most artistic, and most creative designs.

JPL employees or family members click here for entry form. (5 KB pdf file)
Schools and their participants click here for entry form. (5.7 KB pdf file)

(You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 or later installed on your computer to read these pdf files. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is available for free at the Adobe website.)

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