December 6, 2010

Building a better mousetrap car

Freshman mechanical engineering students compete in 'Special Delivery' contest equipped with just two mousetraps and six rubber bands.

The freshman mechanical engineering students who competed last week in what was called a “Special Delivery” contest faced some very special challenges. The 18 three-member teams had to build devices powered by only two mousetraps and six rubber bands, supplied by their teacher, that could deliver a credit card–size “payload” past obstacles and across a finish line. To test the inventions, two parallel 8-foot-long courses were set up in the basement of Hackerman Hall for a series of races supervised by course instructor Allison Okamura, a professor of mechanical engineering. The winner was Team Barnett, named for teaching assistant Andrew Barnett. The team members (at left and above) were Vincent Wang, Patrick Tamm and Max Robinson. For first prize, they each received restaurant gift cards. Beyond the fun, the competition was aimed at teaching students about design approaches, potential and kinetic energy, prototyping and other topics relevant to mechanical engineering.