Over 110 students participated in the Forum’s sixth annual Engineers Week Student Competition held on February 22, 2012. The problem, supplied by Fluor Corporation, was stated as . . . .
“Your Engineering and Construction firm has been awarded the EPCM project: “Let’s Save the World!” by Doomsday Company. Under this contract your firm will be responsible for developing a device capable of delivering 20 valuable items (Binder Clips) from point A, located on the ground, up to a container on a mountain located at point B in the fastest time possible.”
Using pulleys, levers, chutes, funnels, weights and counterweights, the 30 teams of Rice University students spent the afternoon scheming to roll their boulders (represented by binder clips) from the ground (table) to the top of the mountain (a cardboard cylinder) in the annual Engineering Week Student Competition at the Grand Hall.
Prizes were awarded to teams that had the greatest profit which was the sum of the following: remaining project budget after material and labor costs deducted, the Client payment, construction time incentives/penalties. Prizes awarded were for First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth places.
Rice University President Leebron examines one of the teams efforts along with Martin Van Sickels, Executive Director of the Rice Global E&C Forum.
A team of three freshmen who called themselves The First Triumverate – Michael Lebens (r) of Brown College and Seth Davis (l) and Tatiana Narvaez (c) of Hanszen College – won $150 each for first place at the event sponsored in part by the Fluor Corp., which gave the same challenge to its engineers on the same day at its facilities around the world. The competition’s main sponsor is the Rice Global Engineering & Construction Forum and Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering. Rice is the only academic institution that took part in the challenge.
The students, who didn’t have to be engineering majors to enter, did not know what the task would be before arriving for the competition, but quickly became immersed in a flurry of problem solving to get their clips into the cylinders using strictly mechanical means with the tools and materials provided.
With limited time to plan, construct and demonstrate their solutions, all under the watchful eyes of judges, the teams raced the clock and each other. Students scored extra points for minutes and construction materials saved.
“We came up with our idea pretty quickly and wanted to make sure we could do everything as fast as possible, because we recognized that would be how most of the points would be scored,” said Lebens, whose team got the required 20 clips into the tube in well under the required three minutes without a miss.
“We just tried to build something that was sturdy and we knew would hold up and get the job done,” he said. Their device ultimately used two pencils, a rubber band, two pieces of paper rolled into a tube and tape for a contraption that scooped the clips in a shovel-like basket that incorporated a ramp to help them slide into the cylinder. “When we demonstrated, we would pull the tube down to the ground, load a clamp … release, and the tube would get pulled up (by the rubber band) so that the clamp would drop into the cylinder,” he said.
The winning team now gets to defend its championship – potentially three more times. “That’s the goal,” Lebens said. “That’s what we’re going to go for.”
The lively competition was followed by pizza and soft drinks which were thoroughly enjoyed by competitors and judges alike. Judges from companies sponsoring the Forum participated in the event. Mike Coffey, Foster Wheeler, had the role of announcer and commentator for the competition.