MEMS Hosts 2nd Annual Design Contest

Pratt seniors Robert Schneider of Dallas and Max Cohen of Baltimore
won top honors and $2,000 March 5 in the second annual "March
Madness" robot design contest hosted by the Department of Mechanical
Engineering and Materials Science.

Their remote controlled device was judged best at taking Ping-Pong balls
from the corner of an 8-foot-square court on the stage at Love Auditorium
and dropping it in a basketball hoop, in this case a Plexiglas tube 18
inches above the playing surface.

Nearly 50 students from all four departments at the Pratt School of
Engineering and from Trinity College participated in the two-hour event.
Scores of people watched the contest timed to correspond with the
season-ending tournaments that decide the Atlantic Coast Conference
and NCAA basketball champions.

Second place and a $1,000 prize went to senior Anuwat Triratanawasai,
an engineer from Bangkok, Thailand. The third place-$500 prize went to
sophomore Bryan Chavez, from Fayetteville, Ark. The $100 prize for best
looking machine went to freshman John Cornwell, from Huntington, N.Y.
Chavez and Cornwell also are engineering majors.

Teams of one or two students competed in two-minute heats and, as in
basketball, the competition allowed guarding, but goaltending and
aggressive or intentional fouling were penalized.

"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. He said referees and judges determined penalties
and the intent of the person fouling.

Schneider and Cohen named their machine El Chupacabra, a
mythological hybrid of a lizard and vampire bat. Schneider said the
inspiration of the name was more than to scare opponents.

"[El Chupacabra] received this name because Max thought that it was a
very strange name and he wanted people to ask the question, 'Why did
you name the robot that?," joked Schneider.

As for the money, the partners split it up. Schneider said he planned to
use his share of the prize money to upgrade the engine in his car.

"Designing and building the machine was the best part of the experience,"
said Schneider. "It was very satisfying to create a working final product
from a box of parts. I learned that I had to manage my time well to actually
have something to compete with in the competition. "

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

Unlike last year, where students used toy motors to power their devices,
this year they used more advanced motors to give them greater torque
and more power. Each team was also given a kit consisting of wheels,
tires, axles, aluminum, wood, belts and springs. Students also had
access to the school's workshop as well as various stock parts including
fasteners, glue, monofilament lines and cable ties.