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Bulthaup Survives Ballcano's Wrath, Takes Victory in 2.007


Wan Yusof Wan Morshidi--The Tech
Colin A. Bulthaup '99 celebrates victory in the annual 2.007 Mechanical engineering Design Contest, held May 13 in Johnson Athletic Center.

By Frank Dabek
News Editor

Colin A. Bulthaup '99 emerged victorious in the annual Design and Manufacturing I (2.007) Mechanical Engineering Design Contest held on May 13.

The contest challenges students to use a limited set of materials to design a machine to accomplish a specific task. This year's contest was named "Ballcano," a sort of ball volcano which showered balls onto the contest board. The contest called upon students to design radio-controlled machines to score points by dropping balls from the ballcano into either of two holes on the contestant's side of the board.

Bulthaup said that winning the contest was a dream of his from a young age. He called the class "the most unbelievable course I have ever taken."

Of his design, Bulthaup said simply that "it ended up working." He thanked Sawyer B. Fuller '99, who placed second in last year's contest, for his help in driving the winning entry. "He was absolutely amazing I couldn't have done it without him," Bulthaup said.

Fuller, however, said, "I had a pretty simple role in this."

David Abrameto '00, who finished second in the contest, attributed his loss to the drone, a tethered vehicle attached to Bulthaup's machine and designed to disrupt opponents. The drone, he said, was crucial in the final round. "That drone was going to stop me," Abrameto said. As a result Abrameto "drove out a little to quickly" causing a crucial part of his machine to fail to deploy properly.

Alexander H. Slocum '82, professor of Mechanical Engineering and 2.007 course instructor called this year's contest "the best ever" and praised the contest, saying "If I was a space alien I wouldn't wipe out the Earth because of this."

Ballcano an active board design

"Ballcano" was designed by Ebhard Bamberg G, the head teaching assistant for 2.007. At the center of the contest board was the ballcano, which delivered five balls to the board each second. To score points, machines dropped, pushed or otherwise directed the balls into one of two holes. The lower hole earned a machine one point and a raised hole earned two points.

Machines, which were constructed from a limited set of parts provided by the course and which were required to meet size constraints, began the contest in marked regions on either side of the ballcano. Each contest round lasted 40 seconds.

Bamberg said that he designed the board to be "active" and to provide a "new challenge." Slocum said that the board provided for an "absolutely ideal contest."

Bamberg said that he didn't like the way machines interacted in last year's contest where machines often collided in an attempt to enter each other's territory on the board and designed this year's board accordingly.

Bamberg was confident enough in the reliability of the board to wager with a colleague one dinner if the contest was interrupted for more than three minutes because of technical problems with the boards. He won the bet.

This year's design inspired a number of strategies. Dump trucks which collected balls in hoppers and deposited them in one of the holes were popular. Deflectors, of which both entries in the final round were variants, directed balls from the base of the ballcano to the holes by means of tracks or tubes.

One strategy, which Bamberg said he did not anticipate was the shooter, which collected balls and launched them at the holes by spinning wheels. After strong performances by shooters in the opening match, Bamberg said, "They proved me wrong now I love them."

Contest mixes fanfare, education

Slocum told the crowd that 2.007 is "where Physics meets the road." Even though the contest does not count towards the grade for the course, Slocum said that it is a valuable part of the learning experience.

Woodie C. Flowers PhD '73 captured the value of the contest as an educational tool "Engineering is not about homework sets. Engineering is about making things happen," Flowers said.

The contest was dominated by Slocum's tireless enthusiasm, however. Slocum announced scores, introduced contestants to the audience, and explained machines. Not content with counting down in English to start matches, Slocum encouraged audience members to count in ways ranging from Chinese to a Southern accent.

An appearance by the Chorallaries who performed "The Engineers Drinking Song" and a former 2.007 student who performed his 2.007 rap added fanfare surrounding the contest.

After the contest, Slocum announced that several of the highest scoring contestants will be competing in the international 2.70 design contest in Brazil.

Students enjoy course

The reaction of students taking the course was uniformly positive.

Erik Liu '00, said that the course has "been a lot of hard work and I'm just going to be disappointed because I won't get to play with my machine anymore."

Ramy Abu-Khalil '00, said "after taking a bunch of course II classes, 2.007 has reaffirmed my faith in course II because mechanical engineering is a very hands-on application field. This has been a good experience and real application of mechanical engineering."

Liu described the course in a manner of which one thinks Slocum would approve "The reason people are drawn to this is because it's people playing with great toys."

Christina M. Chow contributed to the reporting of this story.