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Zue Triumphant in 2.70 Design Contest

Long Phan--The Tech
Timothy S. Zue '99 celebrates after winning the 2.70 "Pass the Puck" design competition.

By Frank Dabek
AsSoCiAtE NeWsEdItOr

After two days of rigorous competition, Timothy S. Zue '99 was victorious in "Pass the Puck," this year's annual 2.70 design contest. Sawyer B. Fuller '99 finished in second place.

"I really didn't think I'd win," Zue said. There were a "lot of better of designs" in the competition, he added. Zue spent three to four hours a day in the lab constructing his machine in the weeks prior to the competition.

Zue attributed his win to his simple but robust design as well as having an opportunity to practice driving, he said. Zue's machine was a robot with a large bumper emblazoned with the name of his machine, "Fuzz Bumper." Design and Manufacture I (2.007), the class that accompanies the contest, was a "great class," and he had a "great time," he said.

Fuller placed second with an intricate robot which threw balls across the court. While he knew that complex robots usually are not as successful as ones with simpler designs, he said, "What the hell, I'll do something fun." Sawyer was "quite happy" with the results of the competition, he said. "I didn't expect to get so far."

After the competition, a visibly relieved Professor of Mechanical Engineering Alexander H.Slocum '82, who taught 2.007, said "Ahh I need a cigarette." He also said this year's crop of robots were "technogasmic."

Contestants battle for low score

The "Pass the Puck" competition marked a change from previous years' contests with the goal being to attain the lowest point total. Keith J. Breinlinger G, a 2.007 teaching assistant, was integral in the design of the contest, which pitted two robots against each other in a contest to get rid of as many balls as possible in 30 seconds.

The roughly rectangular playing field was separated into two halves by a steep barrier, and a short ledge sat at each end of the table. Thirty-six balls sat on the two ledges, and 23 were on the top of the barrier, an area scored neutrally. There were also eight pucks sitting on each side The machines were powered for 30 seconds.

Players gained a point for every ball on their side of the court and three for every puck. They received 10 points if there was a robot on their side of the court at the end of the competition. If a machine split into pieces, more than half of the mass of the machine was required to cross to the other side if the 10 points were to be avoided. In addition, the ledges on each end of the court doubled the value of anything placed on them.

Contestants were given identical kits of parts with electronic and pneumatic devices to construct a device that would score the least amount of points. Last year's winner, Sami S. Busch '98, advised participants to "stay calm" during the 30-second competition.

The most common strategy was to move the machine to the other side of the court, as the winning machine was able to do consistently. Other strategies, however, involved moving balls off the double-value ledge or pushing the balls off the barrier onto the opponent's side of the court.

Some more unusual designs, however, used grappling hooks, walked along the walls of the court or launched balls or even themselves across the court. "The wall-crawler was the most unusual and impressive" machine at this competition, Slocum said.

Visiting student in final eight

A complication arose during this year's competition when a visiting foreign student was one of the final eight remaining students. By contest rules, only students actually enrolled in 2.007 may be the final eight players of the competition.

After a commotion in the crowd, Slocum asked all present to vote on whether to allow the student to compete. Nearly everyone agreed to allow the student to compete. "Everybody said, Let's do what's right and delete the rules,'" Slocum said.

However, Slocum noted that it was an MITmechanical engineering student who was victorious. When the visiting student lost, the crowd erupted into cheers of "MIT, MIT."

Feelings on the competition among students were mixed. Kenneth I. Pettigrew '99 said that "the work was insane. You burn out and realize you have to work on other classes, too."

Annabel Flores '99 whose strategy "is for [the machine] to work," said 2.007 was "a class I looked forward to the most before I took it and the most happy that it's over."

Robin C. Evans '99 went into the competition "hoping to maintain my dignity" but called the class a "lot of fun."

2.007 "made me glad I came to MIT," Evans said.

Chorallaries perform at 2.70

The second night of competition began with a "2.70 rap" and the traditional appearance of the Chorallaries who performed MIT's drinking song. Other highlights of the competition included "security" officers who held back the crowd with Super Soakers, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Woodie C. Flowers PhD '73, who made a dramatic appearance as a "bio-placebo," an inert robot, in the final match of the qualifying round and later during a break in the final competition.