The Meccano Society of Scotland

Shooting Hoops

Menstrie Challenge 2023


The challenge for 2023 is to build a machine from standard and/or compatible Meccano parts that is able to shoot miniature basketballs (ping pong balls) at a basketball hoop placed on the Menstrie Scout Hall floor. The machine can be operated by its owner or be self-powered using any suitable means by parts recognised as a component of the Meccano system: Spring Cord, Compression Spring(s), Tension Spring(s), Drive Band(s), Falling Weights, Electric or Clockwork Motor(s), etc. Mechanisms or structures that extend themselves to place the ball in the hoop are not permitted: the ball must fly through the air from the machine, which must be immediately behind the Foul Line, to the hoop. Gravity propelled contraptions launching balls from a ramp or similar apparatus are permitted. In all cases, setting the prescribed distance to be flown prior to successfully being captured in the net is necessary since the target distance will be adjusted as the competition progresses. The "net" will have a curved vertical board placed behind it measuring 19 holes x 10 holes to assist in hitting the target.

The competition will use a number of heats to determine which machine is best able to shoot hoops with the greatest accuracy. The distances from the Foul Line to the net will be incremented in 2’ steps (24 inches), starting at 2', until no machine is able to reach it. The "net" will be formed from a part 167B Large Flanged Ring with a bucket underneath it with the ring height at a height of 24½” (a 49 hole Angle girder). Photographs of it appear below. In each round a total of 10 shots can be attempted. The highest aggregate score after all heats will be the winner. The competition favours machines with high accuracy rather than high velocity or high firing rate.


  1. Machine settings (e.g., range, direction, etc.) may be adjusted between each shot at the net.
  2. The power source may be the machine’s operator or any clockwork or electric motor, band, spring or gravity-powered mechanism and may be re-wound or re-set as required between shots.
  3. The machine’s height, width or length should not exceed 49 holes (24 ½"). There is no weight restriction for the machine's construction.
  4. The machine should be assembled from Meccano or Meccano compatible parts.
  5. No part of the machine may extend over the Foul Line during its operation of a shot at the hoop.
  6. Machines which become inoperable during a particular heat may be withdrawn but, if successfully returned to working order, may be re-entered in any following heat(s). The score for the unsuccessfully completed heat will be added to the total score for the competition, i.e., the total number of baskets shot.
  7. The maximum duration for a heat per machine is 2 minutes. Thereafter, the score for the heat will be capped at the score achieved for that heat during the previous 2 minutes.
  8. Machines are not allowed to attempt to move the hoop, or themselves towards the hoop.
  9. Any machine that permanently damages a ball, spectators, or more importantly the Scout Hut fixtures and fittings will be disqualified.
  10. An entrant may use ping pong balls supplied on the day, or their own.
  11. Any machine that scores 10/10 in a particular heat will be allowed 2 additional Free Throws.
  12. When the machine is operating it should not startle or alarm MSoS members or any passers-by present.
  13. Entrants may enter more than one machine.
  14. Proxy entrants are welcome.
  15. To aid marshals, commentators, fielders, scorers and reporters writing up the event, the entrant’s name must be prominently displayed (e.g. a sticky label).
  16. Practice sessions using the net and Scout Hall Floor will be allowed until the competition commences.
  17. In the event of a dispute the Secretary will arbitrate.
  18. The winner will be the machine with the highest aggregate score for all the heats. In the event of a draw between 2 or more machines in the final heat by the same entrant, further heats will not be required.
  19. In the event of a dead heat between two or more competitors the President will allocate one additional point to the machine which in his view is the most graceful at propelling ping pong balls through the air.