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Robots to the Rescue

April 19, 2004 – Robots built by third-year mechanical engineering students at the University of Utah will rescue Beanie Babies from a dangerous obstacle course. Junior high school students will catapult stuffed BYU cougars across a large ballroom. Contraptions built by first-year mechanical engineering students will attempt to carry raw eggs in the “Evil EGGnievel Competition.” And university seniors will display their projects.

These entertaining demonstrations will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday April 23 during the seventh annual Design Day sponsored by the University of Utah Department of Mechanical Engineering. The events take place in and around the Olpin Union Building Ballroom. The public and news media are invited. Here is the schedule:

– The Trebuchet Competition will run from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Trebuchets are catapult-like devices powered by a counterweight rather than by the sudden release of tension. Teams of local junior high school students will build the devices, and then compete to determine who can fling furry stuffed cougar toys the farthest and most accurately. The cougars are the mascot of Brigham Young University, the University of Utah’s arch rival.

– The Evil EGGnievel Competition, named after stunt daredevil Evel Knievel, will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. First-year mechanical engineering students will test devices they have built to learn if the contraptions can safely carry a raw egg through what the department bills as “death-defying stunts.”

– The Robot Hero event, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., will demonstrate the rescue abilities of autonomous robots built by third-year mechanical engineering students. The robots “will rescue multiple victims (beanie Babies) from within an obstacle course of danger, and return them to safety,” according to the Design Day schedule. The event is the follow-up to robot skiing in 2003, jumping robot Olympics in 2002 and robot sumo wrestling in 2001.

– The Senior Design Project Demonstration is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the ballroom corridor, while presentations on each project are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Collegiate Room. Senior mechanical engineering students will display their projects, which include an “ascender” device to help people like rescue personnel climb a rope quickly; a “jib specific snowboard” able to ride non-snow surfaces such as concrete and rails; a walking machine; a human-powered vehicle; a Formula 1 Society of Automotive Engineers racecar; a self-balancing wheelchair; a remote-controlled microturbine-powered model airplane designed to break speed records; a remote-controlled model cargo plane designed to break payload weight records; and a microneedle for painless injection of medicines.

Details about Design Day and low-resolution photos and videos of past events may be found at: