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"Special! Science Contests" Guide & Resources

Take a front seat and enjoy the action as Frontiers presents contests and competitions that take you from dry land to the Atlantic Ocean. Find out which car finishes first in Sunrayce '93, a heated competition of student-built solar-powered cars. The sun is critical to the race because it is the only source of power for the contestants who drive over 1,000 miles from Texas to Minnesota. Then it's off to Boston for a demonstration of the Turing Test to find out if computers can "think." Next, a stop at MIT for a popular favorite, the engineering design challenge. In this Battle of the Crazy Machines, one student may capture a victory he's coveted since eighth grade. Finally, join an unusual race by submarines that run only on people power. Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities in this online teaching guide:

  • Sunrayce '93 (running time: 17:00) -- Student teams race their solar-powered cars from Texas to Minnesota. Activity: Build and race a lighter-than-air vehicle powered by solar cells.
    Report from the Field: Team member and U. of Michigan sophomore Betsy White.

  • The Turing Test (running time: 10:27) -- Can a computer fool a person into thinking it's human? Find out in this first run of a test devised by British computer pioneer Alan Turing. Activity: Debate the role of computers...and design an expert system.

  • Battle of the Crazy Machines (running time: 12:56) -- In this annual competition, MIT engineering students battle it out with their vehicles built from "junk." Activity: Build a catapult and a tower...then destroy it.

  • Human-Powered Submarines (running time: 12:46) -- The waters off Florida become the scene of an unusual underwater race of submarines propelled by people power. Activity: Build a structure on dry land using only index cards...and find out what a basketball has in common with a sub.

  • Contest Extra -- Educators talk about competitions in the science classroom.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.