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Robots, a Moonbuggy and More

April 20, 2007 — A moonbuggy, a solar-powered vehicle, an electric skateboard, egg-carrying robots and more will be demonstrated Tuesday, April 24 as the University of Utah’s Department of Mechanical Engineering holds its 10th annual Design Day.

The public and news media are invited to attend the free event, which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. MDT in the Olpin Union Ballroom.

Activities include presentations and demonstrations of 16 senior design projects, a middle-school trebuchet battle – in which catapult-like devices hurl toy stuffed cougars – the egg-transporting robot event and a race by student-designed mini-vehicles.

One design project, the Moonbuggy, earned the Rookie Award for posting the fastest first-year time in the competition and also won a special safety systems award at the 14th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race on April 13-14 in Huntsville, Ala.

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 details on the projects, including the Moonbuggy, electric skateboard, solar-power vehicle and others, please see:

  • 9:30 to 11 a.m., junior high school teams from around Utah will build trebuchets – catapult-like devices powered by a counterweight. The teams compete for accuracy and distance as they fling toy cougars, the mascot of University of Utah rival Brigham Young University.

  • 10:30 a.m. to noon, transport robots, designed by Mechanical Engineering 1000 students, use the principle of “Conservation of ‘EGG-ergy'” to move as many eggs as possible up a series of ramps. Beware: This event tends to get a bit messy.

  • 1 to 3 p.m., the mechatronics class will hold a race with student-designed mini-vehicles that have no driver and no remote control. The sensor-equipped vehicles smash and crash through a challenging course. At the end of the race, the vehicle that reaches the top of a hill and remains there for at least two minutes wins. The event is known as a Mini DARPA Challenge, named after a bigger race sponsored by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

About the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the most extensive of all engineering disciplines, with the widest applicability and greatest flexibility in terms of career paths.

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.

Kent Udell, professor and chair of mechanical engineering, says: “I believe in a future defined by smart people doing good work for the benefit of their communities.”

Udell has inspired the department to take a leadership role in the area of energy sustainability. For more information about the Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit