Medieval Wheels


To build, from toothpicks, a wheeled device that will coast a distance.

Permitted Materials
  1. Standard wood toothpicks (round or flat)
  2. Casein glue (Elmer’s, Borden’s, etc.)
  3. Dental floss (waxed or plain)

Other types of string, sticks, or glues (epoxy, rubber, super, etc.) will not be allowed.

Other Constraints
  1. The device must have at least two wheels which rotate freely around one or more axles.
  2. The framework, including the axle(s) must not rotate.
  3. The device must fit completely in a box 30 cm. X 30 cm. X 30 cm.
  4. No lubricating materials are allowed. 
Testing Procedure
  1. The device will be placed on a ramp by one of the participants and released. The ramp is constructed from a two by four foot sheet of hardboard (smooth side up) which is elevated fourteen inches on one end. The ramp is straight with a transition to the floor provided by a tape junction.
  2. A score will be determined by measuring the distance the device (front end) rolls along a straight line marked on the floor, and then subtracting the deviation from the straight line (distance between the line and the point on the device closest to the line).
  3. Contestants will have three attempts. The best of the three will be used as the final score. The three attempts will be scheduled consecutively; however, contestants may opt to delay the third attempt to make minor repairs or adjustments.
  4. In the event of a tie, the second best of the three attempts will be the tie breaker.
  5. Practice runs in the testing area, prior to the actual competition, will not be allowed.
College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University

Jim Crumley
Chair, Physics Department
SJU PEngl 107
Physics Department