Symposium Games & Contests – Dirigible Races

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RC Dirigible Races – “The Caucus Race”

“’What is a Caucus-race?’ said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to.

‘Why,’ said the Dodo, ‘the best way to explain it is to do it.’”

Round and round the dirigibles go… When Alice and the others need to get dry in a hurry, the Dodo proposes the only option—a caucus race. And so, your airships will participate in an “immediate adoption of more energetic remedies” as well. But unlike the caucus race in the story, not everyone wins! If you want to win, you must have you must have a sturdy airship, with a stunning design and deft hand at the controls.

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The RC Dirigible Race can be raced with one of two options: Ready to fly RC Blimps (you can search online at Amazon for suppliers) or you can make your own. You can build your own from “scratch” using hobby grade RC electronics, or to use some other flying toy as a “power plant” and build it into a custom helium lift vessel.

However, the dirigible must be that—a dirigible with requisite blimp attached to the mechanism. The course will be simple with at least one left hand hairpin and at least one right hand hairpin and eventually a finish line.

You will be timed from the starting line and the timer will stop at the finish line. Each dirigible will get one run on the course, with the fastest times winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. In the event of a tie, a second run may be required. There will also be a design portion of the competition, with the judges deciding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place on aesthetics/engineering alone.


Anyone is able to participate in the race, whether associated with an airship or not. HOWEVER, if you are not part of an airship, one of the competing airships may try and convince you to join afterwards, and therefore earn your points. This year only one set of points will be available per competition. If the winners are not part of anairship or not convinced to join one, the points go unawarded to any airship.

Equipment Needed:

  • One RC Dirigible (customized or not) See below for rules governing design of the dirigible. Modification is not necessary, but you have the opportunity to take part in the design competition as well.
  • A Helium tank to fill your blimp. Helium will not be provided for you. Helium tanks can be purchased on-line and also at many party stores that sell balloons.

Race Rules:

  • From the start line you’ll be given the go by the timing judge and you must fly your Dirigible in the path outlined by the judges. There will be a “safe for dirigible” marker, such as a balloon floating in mid-air, to indicate each turn point. You must fly AROUND the markers, on the far side. Missing the turn or flying in front of the marker will disqualify you from the game. You are allowed to make contact with the marker during flight.
  • A final marker will mark the end of the course. You must fly past the marker (within 5 feet of it) in order to consider the course complete. When you get past the finish line the timing judge will stop your time.
  • There will be only one run for each dirigible in the race with the fastest times to full completion winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. In the event of a tie, a second run may be required.
  • Expect the height of the ceiling to be 14 feet or less and plan accordingly.

Dirigible Functionality Design Rules:

  • All RC Dirigibles entered in the races and design competition must be capable of slowing it’s decent in the case of a power loss, or a cut throttle. Basically, if you have it flying near the ceiling, and your battery dies or your motors stop working, it shouldn’t fall straight to the floor. Don’t worry if your Dirigible design doesn’t allow for a free floating blimp, just so long as it doesn’t drop like a rock with a loss of power.
  • Dirigibles should be no longer 80 inches from nose to tail. They should be no wider than 72 inches. They should be no taller than 72 inches from gondola to the top of the balloon(s).
  • All Dirigibles should be of helium filled/lighter than air type. No hot air dirigibles, flammable gas dirigibles (no Hydrogen) or heavier than air vehicles (helicopters or airplanes) allowed. Helicopters, Quad Copters and Airplanes can be used as power plants in helium lift dirigibles, just not standalone. If you use one of these heavier than air vehicles as a power plant, it should be enveloped by some kind of decoration or architecture to make it fit as a dirigible, and not just a helicopter suspended from a balloon.
  • Your primary propulsion must be through electric motors and propellers (or ducted fans). Other inventive, non-volatile propulsion is allowed/encouraged. Keep it safe. If you aren’t sure, please ask.

There are flying toys that have multiple propellers for control that with a little engineering can be made to provide steering and elevation control to a balloon based airship. You may even find a way of using more than one flying toy, one for forward thrust and steering, one for elevation, or some other configuration.

  • Due to the possible expensive nature of remote control dirigibles, and the amount of work that may go into designing and building one of these airships, there will be no “combat” competition. However, if you wish to design some kind of working “weapons” into your dirigible for exhibition purposes (such as for the design competition), these must be disabled or removed for the races.
  • There will be spectators in the room, and while we do our best to keep them out of the planned flight path, we all know that things can go awry. To avoid any injuries from falling parts, please make sure that all of your Dirigible’s parts are securely attached, and make an inspection prior to each flight.
  • Your vessel must have a name. It may or may not match the name of your group, so make sure you let us know the name of your RC Dirigible, and if it is not the same as the name of your group, let us know which group your Dirigible represents in the competition.
  • It is recommended that you thoroughly test your dirigible before the competition. Due to the single heats, any breakdown or malfunction will not allow a second run. Basically, you have one shot at it!

Victory Points for the Timed Portion of the Race:

1st Place – 30 Points

2nd Place – 20 Points

3rd Place – 10 Points

Dirigible Aesthetics Design Rules:

  • Your Dirigible must meet all the same specifications as those stated above in the functionality portion, EXCEPT for any weaponry which can be re-enabled for the aesthetics competition. If you design any kind of weapons into your dirigible, they must not be capable of causing injury to a person, either due to inadvertently or intentionally being in the line of fire, or by being dropped on accidentally due to a malfunction.
  • Your Dirigible must be capable of remote control flight, but doesn’t have to fly well.
  • Your Dirigible does NOT have to take part in the races to be entered in the design competition; it just must be CAPABLE of Remote Controlled flight and fit the specifications as stated in the functionality portion above.
  • Best design can be a combination of inventive engineering, artistic presentation, or both. Best engineering does not necessarily mean the fastest airship.

Victory Points for the Design Portion:

1st Place – 30 Points

2nd Place – 20 Points

3rd Place – 10 Points

Sign Up for the Contest HERE


To officially register your Airship or Steampunk Group in the Symposium Games, open the link below, and enter the chance to win glory, prizes, the Symposium Trophy, and four weekend badges to 2017 International Steampunk Symposium

2016 Airship Registration

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