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Robot Race for the Crystal Skull

April 23, 2009 – Robots will navigate an Indiana Jones-like maze in search of the crystal skull, while other robots will dribble and shoot eggs in a “B-eggs-ketball” competition. Students will also display a robotic hand, a moonbuggy and other projects as the University of Utah’s Department of Mechanical Engineering holds its 12th annual Design Day on Wednesday, April 29.

The public and news media are invited to attend Design Day events, which are free and will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. MDT in and around the Olpin Union Ballroom on the University of Utah Campus.

“A competition motivates the students in ways that homework and lab assignments never could,” says Steve Mascaro, assistant professor of mechanical engineering whose students built the autonomous mobile robots. “It creates an outlet for students to apply engineering knowledge to a real problem with tangible and rewarding results. It encourages students to be creative and to out-think their competitors, which are both keys to success in real-world engineering.”

Here is the schedule of Design Day events:

  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Fourth-year mechanical engineering students will present and demonstrate their capstone research projects. For a list of the projects, including the moonbuggy (which took fourth place in April at the 16th Annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, Alabama), underground thermal energy storage, a robotic hand and others, please see:
  • 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Transport robots, designed by Mechanical Engineering 1000 students, will be competing in “B-eggs-ketball” in which the robots try to dribble, pass and shoot eggs without breaking them.

  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Saltair Room: Teams of junior-level mechanical engineering students will hold a mechatronics competition, “Indiana Jones and the Secret Warehouse,” in which students must design and build autonomous mobile robots to navigate through a secret government warehouse and retrieve crates containing mystical archaeological artifacts featured in the Indiana Jones movies. Each robot will have unique mechanisms, sensors and programming. Thirty-five teams will meet in head-to-head competition.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah is committed to providing students with a broad-based, rigorous and progressive education that empowers each student to play a significant role in the design and manufacturing of products and systems that significantly improve people’s lives and create a better world.

For more information about the Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit