March Madness Comes to Pratt

Two North Carolina sports traditions will meet engineering know-how in
the Pratt School of Engineering's second annual design contest March 5
in Duke's Love Auditorium. Students will combine motorsports and
basketball in an effort to win cash prizes of up to $2,000.

This year's design contest requires students to create remote-controlled
machines that can take a ping-pong ball from the corner of a
8-foot-square court and place it in a basketball hoop -- a Plexiglas tube 18
inches above the playing surface. Teams of one or two students will
compete in two-minute heats and, as in basketball, the competition will
allow guarding, but goaltending as well as aggressive or intentional
fouling will result in penalties.

"We encourage strategic maneuvering like blocking, but if you intentionally
knock over or ram your opponent there will be point penalties," said
Robert Kielb, the competition's organizer and a senior research scientist
at the Pratt School. "We will have two referees and two judges to
determine penalties and the intent of the person fouling."

About 50 students are signed up to participate in this year's competition
and are allowed to work in pairs. Unlike last year, where students used
toy motors to power their devices, this year they will be using more
advanced motors giving them greater torque and more power. Each team
is also given a kit consisting of wheels, tires, axles, aluminum, wood,
belts and springs. Students will also have access to the school's
workshop as well as various stock parts including fasteners, glue,
monofilament lines and cable ties.

"The vast majority of our students told us that they really enjoyed last
year's competition, Kielb said. "They told us it was not only a great
experience, but also provided an excellent creative outlet."

This year's contest is sponsored by the Lord Foundation, the Department
of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Sciences and Kaye Products
Inc.