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Energy Transfer Machine Rules

The Energy Transfer Machine provides a hands-on opportunity for middle and high school students to utilize their STEM skills in a fun and creative way.  Students are challenged to transform everyday materials into a wacky, innovative machine that accomplishes a team-specified task at the two minute mark using a variety of energy transfers including power from a hydrogen fuel cell.

Competition Guidelines

  1. The Energy Transfer Machine is comprised of three divisions:
    elementary (4th - 6th grades), middle school (7th & 8th grades), and high school (9th - 12th grades).

  2. Teams are composed of 2 - 6 students.

  3. The Energy Transfer Machine is limited to a total of 30 teams. Team registrations are accepted space permitting on a first-come basis. A team is considered to be registered when the registration fee is received.

  4. Individual students may only participate in (2) EnergyWhiz competitions as team members.

Timing Machine Specifications

The machine shall:

  1. perform a team-specified operation at the two minute mark.

  2. have a minimum of 5 steps in completing its team-specified task with at least one step powered by the competition fuel cell.  The final step in the machine run is the team-specified operation.

  3. be placed on a 6' x 3' table provided the day of the competition.  The machine must not exceed 5.5' (front dimension) x 2.5' (depth) x 3.5' (height from the tabletop).

  4. use the competition fuel cell specified by the Florida Solar Energy Center.

  5. be composed of a series of transfers of energy.  Identical transfers of energy in secession (such as a row of dominoes falling into each other) should be considered one step.

  6. not use any actual timing devices manufactured for that purpose.

  7. 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.

  8. not be attached in any way to the walls, floor or ceiling of the competition venue.  The supplied table for the machine must not be damaged in any way.

  9. remain within the set boundaries of the table and any loose or flying objects must remain within the set boundaries of the table.  This includes (but is not limited to) drops of water, slivers of balloon, and other small objects.  Harmless gases are exempt from this rule.

  10. not include any electrical storage devices (including capacitors).  The only electrical production device allowed on the machine is the competition fuel cell.

  11. not use animals.  No hazardous materials, explosives or flames may be used on or within the machine.

  12. not imply profane, indecent or lewd expressions.

  13. be safe and not harm team members, judges, the audience or equipment.  Any destructive action against another machine is grounds for disqualification.

The machine may:

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

Competition Specifications

Design Form and Photo:

All teams must complete the Design Form (Firefox users, download to edit); including a photo of the team's Energy Transfer Machine, at least 1 week prior to the competition. Forms and photos should be emailed to

During the competition:

  1. all machines will be displayed and operated in the space provided at the competition.

  2. teams are to set up prior to 9:00am for public viewing.  Teams will be allowed to finish competition preparations and electrolysis 30 minutes prior to the start of their event.

  3. only team members may participate in the machine setup and electrolysis procedure.

  4. electrolysis should be performed prior to machine start and may use battery, grid electricity, or photovoltaics (the external power must be separate from the main machine)

  5. teams will compete in two runs in the order designated.  The competition will be run by division (middle or high), as announced the day of the event.

  6. teams must have their electrolysis completed prior to their competition time.

  7. teams must explain to the judges and the audience, prior to their first run, how their machine works, what the different energy transfers are, and what their machine will do at the two minute mark.  They also must include in this an explanation of how a hydrogen fuel cell works. They have up to five (5) minutes for this explanation.

  8. the ‘go’ signal will be given by the Timing Judge.

  9. team members must not interact, interfere, or assist their machines once time has started.

  10. the Timing Judge will stop the clock and record the time when the team designated ‘2 minute’ action occurs.

  11. if the designated action does not occur by the end of three minutes, a DNF (did not finish) will be called.

  12. teams will be given a minimum of 20 minutes to prepare for the second run.  If a team is satisfied with their first run and does not wish to run the second time, they have the option of declining a second run.

  13. the second run will be held in the same manner as the first.  Judges will use the score of the most accurately timed run for the basis of their judging.

  14. all teams are encouraged to watch the judging of all the machines.  Teams are not allowed to dismantle their own machine until all the judging and post-run inspection has been completed.

Energy Transfer Machine Awards

  1. 1st through 3rd place awards will be given in each division for Best Design. These awards will be decided by points awarded for:
    • use of the fuel cell and hydrogen technology
    • number of energy transfer steps
    • complexity and technical sophistication of machine
    • craftsmanship
    • creativity, originality, unconventional material use and design aesthetics
    • team showmanship and knowledge
  2. The Precision Award will be given in each division to the machine that completes its team defined end goal closest (+/-) to the two-minute mark.
  3. The WOW! Award will be given to one team (combined divisions) who exemplifies the spirit of the Hydrogen Challenge and goes beyond expectations.