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New Mexico State University

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Mechanical Engineering students win regional design contest

A group of six mechanical engineering students from New Mexico State University designed a remote control car from scratch, took that car to a regional design contest and came home with the first place trophy and $1,000.

The contest, held at Arizona State University in Phoenix March 26-27, was part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers regional conference. The winning NMSU team, with their car named "Mr. Sticky," was one of 22 that competed from around the area.

The six-man team consisted of: Albert Owen, team leader, a junior from Penasco; Lee Greene, a senior from Mountainair; Will Patton, a junior from Roswell; Kevin Padilla, a senior from Santa Fe; Joe Garde, a junior from Espanola; and Carlos Manzanares, a senior from Abiquiu. Each member of the team is in Mechanical Engineering 326. The project to design and build the car was an assignment for the class, but participating in the contest was optional.

Ed Conley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at NMSU, assigned the project and then established the deadlines, tossed in a few suggestions and carried the team through to make sure they completed the project.

"Through trial and error we improved the design," Owen said. Garde originated the idea for the car and the goal was to "gather parts and build it to be lightweight, fast and have easy maneuverability," Garde said.

The exact course the car would be expected to run during the contest was duplicated by members of the class for practice runs. They competed against teams from such schools as Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Colorado State University, Northern Arizona University, Metropolitan College of Denver and Utah State University. The winning team from NMSU now will attend the national ASME student design contest in Nashville in the fall.

To build the car and the course, team members helped raise funds from local industries. Allied Signal, Laguna Industries, Westinghouse, Bohannan-Huston Inc., Boeing, Raytheon and Nova Bus Inc., all of whom employ ASME members, donated to the project.

Conley said the lessons students learn from design projects are valuable. "What they learn from contests is brought back to the classroom," he said. "There are a lot of elements from various engineering disciplines in a project like this."

To win the contest the car had to travel over an obstacle course, pick up a rock, travel back over the course and drop the rock on its target. The scoring consisted of three components: the weight of the car in grams, the course time in seconds and how close they dropped the rock to their final target. With all three scores added together for a total, the lowest score won.

The team is working on refining "Mr. Sticky" for the national competition. "You get ideas from others when you go to a competition," Owen said. " However, because each design is so individual it's hard to take small parts from various ones and incorporate them into ours."

One important element of the team's winning design is the extended nose. It protrudes several inches in front of the car's body and is covered with a movable track to help climb over obstacles. It is covered with a sticky residue originally obtained from a lint brush, hence the name, "Mr. Sticky."

The team's main goals for the national competition are to create a more substantial track for the car to help it operate more quickly over obstacles, and to try and make the car lighter.

"One thing engineering students need is a connection between the textbook and the real world and projects like this do that," Conley said. "Students usually work as individuals and here they're thrust into a group environment."

The problems are not well-defined and they're forced to deal with uncertainty and situations they'll encounter in the real world, he said.

Six mechanical engineering students from NMSU (L-R) Joe Garde, Albert Owen, Carlos Manzanares, Will Patton and Kevin Padilla (not pictured is Lee Greene), designed a remote control car from scratch, took that car to a regional design contest in Phoenix March 26-27, and came home with the first place trophy and $1,000.

Kim Krogh
April 30, 1999