Cup Up and Away 2020: Rules

The game board consists of nine plastic cups filled with ping pong balls arranged in a 3×3 grid. These cups must be moved to one of the nine shelf positions. Placing a cup in the four corner shelves is worth 2 points, the four edge shelves are worth 4 points each, and the center shelf is worth 6 points. Thus, the maximum score is 30. Scoring is only evaluated at the end, so any cups knocked from the shelves do not count toward the score. There is a 50% penalty if any of the balls in a cup have fallen or been knocked out.

The device must interface with the control panel provided. Only the eight panel controls (4 levers, 2 cranks, & 2 push rods) may be used to operate the device while moving cups; however, multiple team members may operate it simultaneously.


Each device must be designed and constructed according to the following rules:

  1. The device must be self-contained. Once competition has begun no parts may be added to or replaced. If the device breaks during competition, teams may repair their device within the allotted time period provided no parts are added or replaced.
  2. The device must be self-supporting. No human intervention can be used to hold or stabilize the device. Adhesives may not be used to affix the device to the floor.
  3. The following power sources are not permissible: compressed gas canisters, chemicals, explosives. Electrical power is permitted through the use of batteries only.
  4. ALL valid parts must be sourced from an approved list of Canadian suppliers and be accompanied by a link to the Canadian website which lists the price in Canadian dollars. The inclusion of any non-standard parts will result in a 15% deduction from your combined score. Be careful that the American version of a website is not used accidentally (e.g. instead of The approved list of websites includes:
  5. Items need not be purchased from the supplier listed; however, they must have a Canadian supplier as described above.
  6. 3D printed parts are permitted provided the cost is calculated based on resin listed on one of the above websites.

Performance competition guidelines

All performance testing will proceed according to the following steps:

  1. Prior to testing, each team will be required to bring a printed copy of their itemized cost analysis of all the parts used in their device. There will be a 5% deduction to your cost score for failing to bring a physical copy of the analysis sheet.
  2. The TA will review your cost sheet against your design and request additions or changes as needed. No changes may be made to the design after this point.
  3. The device will be photographed.
  4. Each team will have 5 minutes (300 seconds) to move the nine cups. Set-up, operation of the device, and any repairs, all count towards the time used.
  5. The device must interface with the control panel provided. The control panel may be moved or repositioned relative to the game board as desired by the group during set-up. The control panel may not be moved one testing has begun.
  6. The device, or any parts thereof, may not begin in contact with the game board or cups. The cups may not be modified in any way as part of the set-up process.
  7. Damage to the cups, ping-pong balls, or game board will be penalized at the discretion of the instructor. Please note that the height of the ping-pong balls may extend above the lip of the cup.
  8. Once cups begin to be moved, the device may not be touched directly be the team. It may be only operated through the control panel.
  9. If repairs are needed, the testing will be restarted and all cups will be reset to their initial positions. The clock continues throughout.
  10. The test ends when (1) all nine cups have been moved to the shelves, (2) time expires, or (3) the team stops the time. Scoring is performed after the test and recorded.
  11. Teams are responsible for uploading an electronic version of the cost analysis sheet. There will be a 10% deduction to your cost score for not submitting the document by the specified deadline.
  12. Problems or issues not expressly covered by these rules may be treated or penalized at the discretion of the instructor.

Cost calculations

The cost of the device is determined as follows:

  1. Costs must be calculated using the list price on an official website, regardless of the actual purchase price. Nothing can be free. Everything must have a cost.
  2. Item costs and calculations should be reported rounded to the nearest penny (i.e., two decimal places).
  3. All taxes should be excluded from calculations.
  4. Where items are sold in packages of two or more, the item cost may be calculated as a fraction of the total. For example, 3⁄4” #10 wood screws are sold in packages of 75 for $4.57. Therefore, the cost of three screws is:
    \[\mbox{cost}=\frac{3}{75}$4.57 = $0.18\] after rounding to the nearest penny).
  5. The cost of wood or other material may be scaled based on the number of usable parts that could be machined from a given raw piece of material. This is different that the area or volume of material used.
  6. Costs of consumables such as tape or glue may also be prorated based on the length or mass of material used.
  7. The costs of tools should NOT be included in the analysis.
  8. Cost analyses not submitted according to these rules are subject to a 15% deduction to your cost score.

Determining testing grades

Two rounds of testing are performed using two iterations of the design: a prototype round, and a final round. Grading during the prototype round is relative, whereas the final round testing is an absolute scoring system determined based on the prototype results. In both rounds the total grade is based on a weighting of 70% for performance and 30% for cost.

During the prototype round, grades will be calculated using the following relative system:
\[\mbox{performance grade}=50\%\times\left(1+\frac{[\mbox{your score}]-[\mbox{lowest score}]}{[\mbox{highest score}]-[\mbox{lowest score}]}\right)\] \[\mbox{cost grade}=50\%\times\left(2-\frac{[\mbox{your cost}]-[\mbox{lowest cost}]}{[\mbox{highest cost}]-[\mbox{lowest cost}]}\right)\]