The Polymer Derby is a very informal Lego-driven event that you can base a
quiet evening, or a rowdy afternoon around. The general idea is to get a
bunch of people and a bunch of Legos together, the people assemble the Legos
into rolling vehicles of all varieties, and then wheel based contests ensue.
If you are looking for our specific rules for the upcoming ZK Polymer Derby
Dec 2, in Seattle go here.
Otherwise, read on, and get some ideas to plan your own race day!
Legos (or other building block toys)
This is to run the cars down to give them speed.
We use a 20"x4' plywood quarter-pipe built for skate boarding, but a plank
of wood leaned against the arm of a sofa works just as well.
Jump ramps / obstacles
For variety of contests, consider making the entrants design
vehicles that can navigate topographic challenges, as well as have the
durability and balast to survive and continue after flying off of a jump.
Suggested Basic Rules:
All vehicles must be made solely of Legos.
Each vehicle must include a pilot, and an arguably feasible control
interface (steering wheel, lever, computer console, brain hose, etc.)
Only stock lego pieces can be used in the drive train assembly.
(modified lego pieces are welcome as aesthetic elements, but not allowed in
any of the wheel/axle/chassis mount etc.)
Even though they come from official lego sets, the battery powered, and
pull-back motors are not allowed.
No lubricants or bearings are allowed. Gunked-up Legos = Gross!
All vehicles must be launched from a dead standstill at thetop of the ramp.
Victors will be determined by total distance traveled, measured from the
terminal edge of the launch ramp to the vehicle's rearmost wheel/starting
point, using the best of three attempts/races per car.
A long board with two side walls is suggested for the track, to ensure
For maximum destruction, consider two opposing inclined ramps, making a V,
where the two vehicles will collide at increased speeds.
The designers place their entries at opposite ends of the track and on
signal from a third party, launch their machines down the track at their
A vehicle is eliminated if the pilot is either thrown from the vehicle,
decapitated, or cut in half.
If Neither vehicle is eliminated, they must be thrown again.
No repairs are allowed. If a vehicle breaks in two (or 3 or 4, etc)
The section containing the driver is considered 'the vehicle', and is
reused until one vehicle is prevails.
Head to Head Drag Race:
Instead of going solely for distance, two(or more) vehicles are
released down the ramp at the same time in a race to a finish line.
A straight forward jump ramp is really easy to engineer at the
bottom of your launching ramp. Measure distance to rear most point of the
vehicle on impact.
Jump+Integrity: This variant puts emphasis on ballance and structural
integrity. The vehicle must land continue to travel after its jump. Measure
distance to rear wheels of vehicle after it stops rolling.
High Jump: Very hard to referee, and will require quite a steep launch
ramp. Send them up as high as possible!
Using the speed ramp, place an assortment of difficult, yet
theoretically passable terrain at the bottom.
Vehicles aim for maximum distance while testing their ability to handle
rough terrain, jolts, and jostles to their frame.
Set up a number of lego pylons spread about the race area.
Vehicles score points for the number of pylons they knock over.
Inverse Bowling (obstacle avoidance):
Set up a number of pylons as above.
Vehicles are disqualified if they knock over a pylon.
Victory is based on distance travelled. Aiming one's vehicle on a path
to avoid the pylons becomes key.
Target Shooting (precision engineering):
Designate an area in the race area as a target zone.
Vehicles are disqualified if they fail to stop within the area.
This variant forces contestants to design cars that go a specific
distance, not just as far as possible, and can make use of the lesser wheel
systems more strategic (see Big Wheels below).
There is a nice flat lego baseplate that works well for designating the
target area from the old Moon Base sets.
Vehicle Classes & Thematic Categories:
Some designs are just not going to really be fair to pit against each other.
If you care, consider splitting your races into different vehicle classes.
Alternatively restricting entries to a specific type of vehicle style, theme,
or class, for a days raceing can push people's engineering abilities and
creativity, to interesting effect.
Big Wheels: When it comes to distance and speed, it is unfortinately true that
not all Lego wheels systems are created equal. If in your collection you
have some of the giant Mindstorms wheels, or the Quite Large Technics
wheels, consider a 'Big Wheel' class, where any car utilizing this advanced
circular technology only competes against those similarly endowed.
Inlines: A special class for those with an affection for the engineering
exhibited at the Bonnevill Salt Flats, motorcycles, bikes, rocket sleds,
etc. All vehicles in this class may only have wheels in a straight line,
like a bike, or roller blade.
Ultra-Light: Minimalism in design is key here. Large vehicles made out
of very thin pieces, oddly shaped and creative takes on the idea of
'wheels', etc. Basically this is a class for all those feeble, teetering,
top heavy or flimsy constructions that are too awesome or hillarious to
not build, but really have no business competeing against
seriously engeneered speed demons.
Micro: As few parts as possible. Pilots as structural elements- think
light cycles, the wheelie guys from Return to Oz, skate boarders, etc.
The Polymer Pentathalon:
Combine multiple ideas above, awarding points for victory in the
A good mix: Distance, Head-to-Head, Enduro, Jumping, Demolition.
A good equalizer is to add an aesthetic judging period before the race
where all entrants get to vote on the other cars.
0 pts: Totally Ugly
1 pts: Functional but uninteresting
2 pts: Nice looking
3 pts: Mad Style
The aesthteic points get added to points for finishing 1st and 2nd in
the racing events. At the end of the day the overall winner gets the glory.
Having enough Legos to pull off an event like this can be expensive if you
don't already have a dusty collection from your youth sitting in your
Large amounts to get you started can often be found on ebay.com and
craigslist.org, listed like: "10lbs of Misc Legos for $15.00".
If you have a local
Freecycle Group put out a 'Wanted' (after you put out an 'Offered' ad
first. ;) ) You'll probably get a response.
If you get really into designing your vehicles and want to add just one
or two of that perfect piece into your collection, take a look at the many
resellers available on Brick Link
Once you get some basics collected, consider inviting participants to
each bring a small set to the event. There are a lot of little $5-$10 sets
that can add a lot of neat detail parts to trick out one's ride. Then after
the races, those parts get donated to the communal pile for the next race
Some past and current cars forged by the ZK pit crews: