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Teams Design New Storage Systems in TBP Engineering Design Contest

By Krista L.Niece

Nine teams competed for $500 in prizes at the twelfth annual Tau Beta Pi engineering design contest.

The teams, which were composed of three or four freshmen and sophomores, met Tuesday evening for two hours to invent a creative, realistic solution to a specific design problem.

TBP, the national engineering honor society, is the event's sponsor. The society also holds the Leonardo da Vinci dinners and is responsible for MIT students being admitted to the BostonMuseum of Science free of charge.

The contest, held in room 4-270, had several purposes, said Anand Devendran '99, one of the organizers. These include letting underclassmen know about TBP and to give them an "early idea of what engineering is about." The contest is also geared to teach the importance of teamwork and public presentation, "which we think are the essentials of being good engineers," he said.

Contest offers a practical problem

This year, the contest centered around a major problem currently facing MIT - the possibility of housing a significantly greater number of undergraduates in dormitories. The teams' task was to design a 2-by-3-by-6-foot organizer which would maximize storage space and minimize roommate conflicts.

"We try to make [the question] relevant to what the students have experienced at MIT," said Manolis E.I. Kamvyssdis '99, one of the event's organizers and a former contestant.

"Two years ago the design was for a snow-removal machine," Kamvyssdis said. "That was the year we got hit by a blizzard."

The participants agreed that the problem was close to home. "Right now I'm in a crowded double," said Daniel Ingram '01, a contestant. This was "an interesting way to tie MIT's problems" to the contest, said Jonathan Anzaldo '00.

Winning designs economize space

Each entry was judged by a panel of professors and graduate students in different fields. The winners were determined on the basis of four criteria: creativity, reasoning, realism, and presentation.

The presentation aspect consisted of a short explanation of the product in front of the judges. The quality of the presentation was determined both by the fluency and poise of the presenters and the extent of team coordination.

The first-place winners were Andrew W. Hogue '01, Russell L. Spieler '01, and Ken W. Conley '01. They created a design they called "the Lego System."

Like its namesake, the Lego System consisted of modular cubes that could be combined in various configurations by a series of grooves and teeth. This model combined storage versatility and reasonable cost to win for its creators $250 in prize money and a trip to Yale to compete in the district tournament.

In second place was a product with a fold-down desktop that could be connected to an adjacent unit to provide extra space for hanging clothes. The third-place design was the "Space-Saver 2000," which consisted of three polyurethane components velcroed together. The makers of these designs were awarded $150 and $100, respectively.

The district competition will take place this year on March 28. Each team is identified only be a number, so the judges do not know which team is from which school.

MIThas a history of outstanding performance in this competition, which brings together the winners from a dozen schools across the northeast. "[The MITteam] has won four years straight," Kamvyssdis said.

The judging is anonymous, but, said Kamvyssdis, "You know who's from MIT when they announce the winners."