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Science Olympiad
Mission Possible
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Frequently Asked Questions


This FAQ was started in response to the large number of emails I have been getting about Mission Possible and requests for advice. If you don't get an answer from here, email me. I may not be able to get to your question, but the more detail you can provide, the easier it is for me to answer.



How can I get started with Mission Possible?

I would say that it definitely helps to be on a Science Olympiad team in middle or high school. Eligibility aside, an interest in engineering is a major plus. Basic experience with simple machines, kitchen chemistry, construction (both wood and models) and basic electronics are extremely helpful and I almost would consider them a requirement although they can easily be learned with some time and reading. Also, having lots of workspace in a safe environment with tools is very important to the construction and experimentation side of the project. Consider this when deciding where to build the device. You are going to want a team to help with both the design and construction and the Mission Possible rules allow for three team members to compete but any number of people can work on the device prior to competition. Still, I recommend that at maximum four people work on the device. After that workspaces get crowded and details get lost. The people that build the device are the people who understand it (hopefully...) and should therefore be the people to compete it in case of emergencies and explanations to the judges. You can split up skills between your team members so each person is specialized.

Once you have a team, a workspace, and the necessary skills, its brainstorm time. Get together and just brainstorm design ideas. Search the internet, read books, talk to coaches/judges/past team members to get ideas. You could even get your Science Olympiad team to each offer at least one energy transfer idea per energy form. Then get back together with your team and start sorting out ideas. Try to visualize how you might implement an idea and how it might work. If an idea is interesting but your unsure how it might work, now is the time to figure it out. You can start to work out a complete schematic of the device along with making your energy transfer list (ETL) and a parts list of things you'll need to get. Once you have a complete design, take it to your coaches, your parents, your teammates, etc. and have them look over it. Check it for rule violations, check it for safety. Have them grill you on how each part is going to work now. The more you understand from the beginning and can explain to someone else, the better. If everything checks out, you can start gathering parts and start construction.

What is the most important part of the design?/How do I minimize failure?

The most important part of Mission Possible design is Reliability and Repeatability. Even if an Energy Transfer (ET) is cool/unique/solves cold fusion, it is useless if it doesn't work all the time. A transfer that fails at competition can cost a touch deduction or at worst (from experience) cause penalties due to safety violations or failure to complete task. Also, transfers and actions that take a long time, or vary in time, can cause serious point losses that can cost places at national competition.

The first step to avoiding reliability issues is durring the brainstorm session. You can try to eliminate design ideas that have a variable time component or you can try to make your design insensitive to changes in the time component. One way to reduce temporal sensitivity is to get energy transfers to run as fast as possible and then use a very accurate timer to eat up the rest of the time. For instance, I had all of my energy transfers run in 8 seconds total followed by a 52 second precision timer.

The second step to avoiding reliability issues is durring the construction and testing phase. As you build each individual energy transfer, test the hell out of it. Keep a log book of each transfer, how to set it up and how it performs. Include run times and any

Can I use parts of your ETL (Energy Transfer List)?

Yes and no. You may not use my entire ETL but you can use parts of it so long as you fully understand what your doing and how the device works. If you can fully explain how it works then you can use it.

What different styles of design are there?