The Rules

For any questions or clarifications on the rules, please email


The task for the 2019 Philly Contraption Contest is: Play a musical instrument.


There must be at least three members on each team. All team members must be full-time students. Teams must have a parent/guardian or teacher advisor, and only one adult can help the team set up the machine on the day of the event.

Teams will be divided by age division. Division I is high school. Division II is middle school. These divisions will be judged separately. Space is limited.

Teams may be formed in homeschooling groups, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, church youth groups, etc., in addition to in schools.


Each team will enter a Rube Goldberg-style machine that completes the assigned task: Play a musical instrument.

To be a part of the competition, a machine must have a minimum of 20 steps for Division I (older kids) and 10 steps for Division II (younger kids). Maximum height is eight feet. And the machine must fit inside an 8’x8′ square on the floor.

The machine must finish its run within two minutes. Each machine will be run twice for the judges. Prior to starting the machine, each team must deliver an oral presentation. In addition to being part of the storytelling process — each machine should tell a story — the team should also use the oral presentation to explain the steps in the machine.

Each machine will be provided with one 120V power source upon request. Air compressors can be used outside for fills before runs; they cannot be used indoors or during a run. Water lines cannot be run to the machines, but water is available for filling vessels and containers before runs.

Machines are not allowed to include any hazardous materials, live animals, flames or explosives. And as this is a family-friendly event for children, machines and presentations should not contain any profanity or other offensive language or images. Any machines found to be in violation will be immediately disqualified.

Teams will have a maximum of two hours to set up the machine inside the venue. Doors will open to the teams at 8 a.m. Judging to commence at 10 a.m. Doors open to the public at 11 a.m.

Judges will grade the machines and teams on a variety of criteria including absurdity, number of steps (the more the better!), teamwork, the effective use of a story or theme, completion of the task, and the use of everyday objects.

After judging, teams are required to run their machines for spectators. Teams should engage the spectators and answer questions. A team may be disqualified if it does not participate in the public demonstrations.

Winners will be announced at 1 p.m. on the day of the event. Trophies and other awards will be presented.

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