Watch the video:
Missouri S&T’s engineering students can change the shape of the local economy. In the fall of 2013, Rolla residents were hard-pressed to find a glass marble for sale within a five-mile radius of S&T. Yes, budding engineers had bought a city out of marbles. The children’s toy was an important component in last semester’s IDE 20 design project.
IDE 20 is the Introduction to Engineering Design course that all S&T engineering students must take. Approximately 560 students were enrolled in the fall 2013 semester’s course, taught by Ryan Hutcheson, assistant teaching professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The fall 2013 project required students to build a device that projects marbles toward a series of hollow, cylindrical targets that stand approximately 6 inches tall. Each target was assigned a fixed point value, with the farthest of the three targets worth the most points.
One hundred forty teams of three to five students had to design and build their own, original machines. The device had to fit within a 36- by 36-inch rectangular area on a welding table and be less than 72 inches tall. The devices the students designed could be human or battery-powered (with up to 1 kilogram of battery mass).
“This semester, the class ran the Rolla Walmart out of marbles several times,” says Hutcheson. “A few years before it was eggs and, one time, we bought the Rolla Lowe’s out of sledgehammers. It comes down to a lot of students having the same solution to a problem and having the same deadline.”
The teams spend hours in a small workshop inside the Interdisciplinary Engineering Building on the S&T campus. Students’ devices are generally constructed from PVC pipe, plywood or 2x4s. Duct tape is a staple of many projects. The students are surrounded by measuring levels, saws and drilling machines as they learn teamwork and communication skills.
“It is a basic class to introduce students to design and interdisciplinary work,” explains Hutcheson. “The class serves to teach students how to think and work as engineers and the documentation that accompanies that process.”