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MIT Team Places First In Design Competition

By Kwong H. Yung
Staff Reporter

For the third consecutive year, an MIT team placed first in the annual Tau Beta Pi District Design Competition, hosted by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell last Saturday. UMass Lowell shared first place with MIT.

Salman Khan '98, Michael Guidry '98, Praveen Ghanta '99, and Narendra Maheshri '99 competed in the one-day-long engineering competition, which is open to college freshmen and sophomores.

This year, MIT competed with teams from Norwich University, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maine, UMass Lowell, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Boston University. Tau Beta Pi is an engineering honors society.

Students this year were presented with a design problem involving an oil spill onto the coast of Maine and were asked to minimize the environmental damage caused by the spill.

"We were given a list of resources such as helicopters, tugboats, and oil skimmers with which to combat the spill, some of which were located in Portland, Maine, and others in Boston," Guidry said.

In addition, the leaking oil tanker could not be moved until it was repaired; matters were further complicated by an impending storm alert, Guidry said.

"Using what we felt were reasonable engineering approximations, we found that the spill could be completely contained in an 18-hour period." Guidry said.

The team concluded that even if the incoming storm damaged the tanker, the extra oil could not spread further, Guidry said.

In presenting their solution to the judges, the MIT team also justified their proposal over other alternatives.

Local competition held first

Before advancing to the district competition, the team had to apply its problem-solving skills to win the local MIT competition.

A total of eleven MIT teams competed for the chance to advance to the district competition. The local competition had resulted in a tie between the top two teams.

The six judges for the MIT competition gave the top two teams equal total scores. A second vote resulted in another tie.

The judges liked the ideas of both teams, but the second team's "only drawback was that they did not present why they eliminated some of their ideas and only presented one of the ideas," said Yi-Hung Li '97, an officer of MIT's Tau Beta Pi chapter.

In the end, the Tau Beta Pi officers had to break the tie, but the total $400 prize money for the top two places was evenly divided between the two teams.

Members of second team at MIT were Joel M. Rosenberg '99, Ricardo Galan '99, John D. Dunagan '98, and John J. Rae '99.

Teams compete to design device

In the MIT local competition, the object was to design a snow-removal device.

"Our idea was basically a heated mat that you could put on your sidewalk, driveway, or car while it was snowing," Khan said. "It was basically just a waterproof electric blanket that provided a drainage mechanics for the melted snow."

The six judges for the MIT event were Mathematics Professor Hartley Rogers, Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Preetinder S. Virk, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Donald E. Troxel, Associate Material Science Professor Kirk D. Kolenbrander, Ulana M.S. Legedza G, and Jung S. Yu G.

The local competition was sponsored entirely by the MIT Tau Beta Pi Chapter. The district competition was sponsored by Robotics Vision Imaging Inc. and the Tau Beta Pi district organization itself.