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Yang Wins 2.70 'Pebble Beach'

By Stacey E. Blau
Associate News Editor

Hyoseok Yang '97 with his machine Alleluia emerged as the winner of this year's Introduction to Design (2.70) contest on Wednesday night.

After two nights of competition in front of packed crowds in 26-100, Yang's machine captured the top spot in a field of about 160 machines.

"There were many, really good and creative machines in the contest," said Yang, a student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "I was lucky to win."

Yang was presented with a trophy - a model of Building 10 encased in a transparent plastic box filled with white pellets used in the contest. Atop the box is a stack of ping-pong balls sitting on a miniature plate. "When the trophy is plugged into an outlet, the ping-pong balls light up, and the pellets fly around," Yang said.

Yang, along with finalist Kristen L. Pierson '97, semifinalist Rachel Cunningham '98, quarter-finalist David W. Lewinnek '97, and semi-finalist Matthew E. Edstrom '95 will travel to an international competition in Cambridge, England this summer. Judges selected the four non-winners and alternate Jonathan D. Albert '97, a quarter-finalist, to participate in the international competition.

The international competition will also include participants from Brazil, England, Germany, Japan, and Korea.

This year's theme: Pebble Beach

This year's contest was titled Pebble Beach, after the famous California golf course. The design of the contest tables reflected the golf theme: White pellets represented sand, and green surfaces and ramps simulated the fairway. Four clumps of orange ping-pong balls were located at various spots on the tables and sand.

The aim of this year's contest was for the remote-controlled machines to collect the ping-pong balls from the four clumps and deposit them into the bins on a contestant's side of the table. The machine that deposited the most balls on its side won the contest. Machines were required to fit in a box of 16 cubic inches, but there was no weight limit.

The winning machine "was a car which drove through the pellets, swept the ping-pong balls into the bucket, drove to the goal, and dumped [the balls] into the goal," Yang said. His machine also had two projectiles, one to knock a plate of 14 balls into his goal, and one to knock the opponent's 14 balls out of the playing field.

To accommodate the two projectiles and a car, the base of the machine was tunnel-shaped and housed the two projectiles, and the vehicle sat atop the tunnel, Yang said. On the base of the machine, "there were two ramps for the car to either drive directly to the pellets or attack the opponent," he said.

Machines advanced in a single-elimination process. In the event of a tie, the machine whose electrical connector was closest to a special blue ping-pong ball won.

The preliminary round took place on Tuesday night. Only about 45 percent of the machines that competed on Tuesday made it past the preliminary round, said Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Alexander H. Slocum PhD '82, the head lecturer for 2.70.

Machine designs were creative'

The machines were constructed out of materials supplied in kits handed out in class. The kits included parts like paint brushes, aluminum strips, Velcro fabric fasteners, belts, string, and electric motors. The parts were provided by various corporations. Although the students received identical kits, designs varied greatly.

The machine designs were "incredibly creative," Slocum said. This year's contest was one of the hardest ever because the machines had difficulty moving on the pellets representing sand, he said. "There were so many cool ideas in such a short amount of time," he said.

Students started building their machines around spring vacation. Yang said he spent about 30 to 40 hours a week in lab at the start, and as the contest neared, he worked on his machine almost whenever the lab was open.

Each student's contest machine counts for a total of 30 percent of the grade for 2.70.

"Three days before the contest I did nothing else except work on the machine," Yang said. Students in 2.70 "deserve 60 units for this class instead of the measly nine units," he said.

Starting next year, 2.70 will be a 12-unit subject. Instructors also hope to assemble lab kits and distribute them during the first week of class, giving students more time to work on their machines, Slocum said.

With the completion of the new Pappalardo Laboratory facility, where 2.70 students worked on their machines, "we have time to play with the course and implement a more systemized schedule" so students are not rushed to complete their machines at the end of the term, Slocum said.