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Robots Will Ski at the U Mechanical Engineering Design Day Also to Highlight BYU Cougar Hurling

April 16, 2003 — Robots built by University of Utah students will ski through a slalom course. Catapult-like devices will hurl stuffed BYU cougars across a large room. Cleanup devices will remove oil slicks and rescue eggs in tanks of water during the “Free Willy III” competition. And about 70 mechanical engineering design projects will go on display.

All the fun will happen from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. April 21, 2003, when the University of Utah Department of Mechanical Engineering hosts its sixth annual Design Day in and around the Olpin Union Building Ballroom. The public and news media are invited. Here is the rundown:

–The Trebuchet Competition will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Teams from local junior high schools have built trebuchets, which are catapult-like devices powered by a counterweight rather than by the sudden release of tension. The teams will compete to determine which trebuchet can fling objects the farthest and most accurately across the ballroom. The objects are small, stuffed, toy cougars – the mascot of Brigham Young University, rival of the University of Utah.

–The Oil Spill Cleanup contest – also known as Free Willy III after the films about a killer whale – is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will involve cleanup devices built by first-year mechanical engineering students. The devices “will clean up an oil slick and save Willy (an egg) inside a tank filled with water,” according to a Department of Mechanical Engineering newsletter.

–Robot Skiing, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., will test the skiing skills of autonomous robots built by third-year mechanical engineering students. The robots will ski through a slalom course in which artificial turf will serve as snow, and students will display posters about their robots. The event is a follow-up to robot sumo wrestling during the 2001 Design Day and last year’s Jumping Robot Olympics.

–The Senior Design Project Session and Demonstration will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Posters will be displayed by senior mechanical engineering students to illustrate their projects, which include easy-to-carry collapsible skis, a Formula SAE race car, a Mini-Baja off-road vehicle, a fuel cell, a human powered vehicle, a hybrid rocket motor, a SnoChair that people in wheelchairs can use to travel across snow, canes that help older people climb stairs, aerodynamic bicycle handlebars made of composite materials, an agile walking robot, a solar vehicle and much more. For project details, see

Also on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be posters about projects designed by micromachining students, including micropumps, microneedles and a laboratory-on-a-chip.