The final event was a balloon car race. Teams had to be parents only or students only and you had to make a car using just the materials provided which were pretty minimal. Popsicle sticks, wooden food skewers, tape, rubber bands, balloons, bottle caps (wheels), straws, etc. The idea was to construct a car and have a blown up balloon connected to a straw so that the air out the straw would propel the car forward. Fun challenge that gets all of the engineering students and quite a few engineering parents doing their best.
So that's what all the student teams did. And all the parent teams except two. But for two parent teams (we were one), we realized that while it was titled "balloon" car race, the rules did not say propulsion had to come from the balloon. And a stretched rubber band can deliver a lot more energy than an inflated balloon. So we, and by we I mostly mean Steve (one of the other dads), came up with a rubber band powered car.
Most of the cars travelled in the range of nothing to maybe 10 inches. A few mad it a couple of feet. But Steve held one end of the rubber band on the start line, pulled the car back, and let go. Ours went about 16 feet. It not so much drove as flew, which is appropriate as Steve works on the 787 team at Boeing.
It was a great way to end the day. Especially with us parents winning – a lot of the time when you have kids that bright you wonder if you can even come close on anything like this. And a good lesson to the kids that you should think outside the box and not limit yourself to the standard way of accomplishing things.
Update: My daughter also blogged about this at Family Weekend: Balloon Car Races where you can the student perspective. And apparently they also switched to a rubber band for propulsion, but had some implementation issues.