Stan’s Obligatory Blog


An exercise in real-world engineering geekdom

Filed under: — stan @ 9:07 pm

It’s springtime, and time for the ME72 Engineering Contest. This year’s contest was a departure from the past ones I’ve been to. For the first time I remember, it was held outside, and this time, the contest was to build a machine to launch a small object across the field. They had a horizontal rope 30m from the launch pads, and 5m high. The machines had to send their payload over the rope. Beyond that, the longest distance would win.

The machines ran two at a time against each other. So the winner each time was the machine that threw its payload the farthest in that round. There were basically two types of machines used. Most were catapults of some sort, using rubber tubing as a large rubber band to store energy for the launch. They were basically large slingshots. Most of these machines used a small electric motor to stretch the rubber bands. Some had very short launching tracks to fit within the space constraints. Some had longer tracks that started out vertical and had to pivot downward to the proper launching angle. The machines had to fit within the horizontal area of the launch pads.

The second type of machine was a variation on a trebuchet. There were two of them in the contest, and they did very well. One of them was finally eliminated in a later round when its throwing arm buckled during a launch. They repaired it, but it just wasn’t the same, and it ended up losing.

In the end, it came down to Team Savage Rabbit against T.T.B. (Team To Beat). A catapult against a trebuchet. Both machines were very dependable, but in the final contest, the catapult shot its projectile just a little bit farther. The winning margin was only a few feet.

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon.

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