Written by Taylor Hill and Arielle Samuelson
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Whether by way of bungee wire, half-inch chain, servo motors, torsion springs, electronics or simply plain gravity, 20 middle- and high-school scholar groups used a spread of apparatus to compete on this yr’s JPL Invention Challenge at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The groups – primarily from Southern California however together with ones from as far-off as Ethiopia and Guam – took half within the “Upright Pipe Contest” on Friday, December 14th. The goal was to get a 24-inch size of two-inch PVC pipe from a horizontal place to an upright place on a platform utilizing no matter gadget they may give you, directions not included.
“I give them nothing,” stated Paul MacNeal, a JPL mechanical programs engineer and the competition’s organizer. “I give them a clean piece of paper. The entry price is $zero, and the standard gadgets we see right here value between $25.00 to $100.00. The thought is to not be a monetary burden to any faculty. This has a low entry price, and it nonetheless encourages the artistic juices to get going.”
While the foundations required contestants to get the pipe upright in below 60 seconds, the highest three groups didn’t even want two.
The profitable scholar staff, from Oakwood High School in North Hollywood, bought the pipe upright and regular on the platform in simply 1.37 seconds. The speedy time introduced oohs and aahs from the group, and even stunned the Oakwood staff members, who had been tinkering with their gadget simply minutes earlier than taking the stage.
“We determined to make use of a drill because the motor to drag,” stated junior Seth Kleinberg. “It got here from a tool we constructed a few years in the past (for a earlier Invention Challenge).” Oakwood’s time within the November regional competitors clocked in at 11 seconds, however after seeing a number of the instances of the competing colleges, the staff regrouped, upped the drill velocity and added parts to the gadget – together with a ketchup packet.
“Today we went by way of no less than 5 or 6 totally different iterations,” stated junior Tyler Brown, however after seeing one of many first groups get close to two seconds, they knew what they needed to do. “We had been like, okay we gotta go quick,” stated freshman Maggie Brown.
Second place went to Hamilton High School’s staff named We Made It, whose time of 1.59 seconds was a marked enchancment over the teams’ exhibiting in final yr’s problem.
“Last yr, we had been all excited to compete and had our machine examined the morning of and able to go,” stated senior Ethan Layne. “We put it on the trailer to go to JPL, and we thought we had it strapped down, however apparently not safe sufficient, and it blew off the trailer on the freeway.”
The staff went again to search for it however discovered no signal of the misplaced machine. So this yr, they had been simply glad to have “made it.”
“It’s undoubtedly good, after working so laborious final yr and having it principally simply disappear, coming again this yr and do in addition to we did,” Layne stated.
In third place, Los Angeles High School’s Wildcats staff fused perform with artwork, establishing a tool that utilized torsion springs and surgical tubing to erect the pipe in 1.67 seconds, and so they embellished it with a cat, flower and a large butterfly.
“Most of our staff are ninth-graders, and 7 out of 9 staff members are ladies,” Dante Madali, a math and pc science trainer. “I all the time encourage them to be creative and inventive. To apply the creativity. Of course, the problem is the primary precedence. But in the event that they nonetheless have time, then I encourage them to be artistic about their work.”
What makes the Invention Challenge distinctive is the involvement of JPLers, who compete alongside the scholars however in a separate division. MacNeal sees that as invaluable in altering the attitude of engineering as a occupation.
“The college students get to see skilled engineers competing and having enjoyable on the identical time. The fundamental general theme right here is engineering is enjoyable, and we’re attempting to deliver some levity into the entire schoolwork these guys have. This is one thing that’s hands-on. It’s an expertise, not a grade.”
This yr, the highest JPLers had been Alan Devault, with a time of two.38 seconds, Ria Dawar at four seconds, and Richard Goldstein at four.65 seconds.
Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.
Caltech, NASA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Pasadena CA