Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Design 2.007, MIT's famous mechanical engineering contest, culminates tonight and tomorrow night at 6pm in Johnson Athletic Center with a gravity-defying race up a sheet metal "mountain."
"MechEverest," the name of this year's design challenge, began at the start of the term, when each student in Professor Alexander H. Slocum's Design and Manufacturing I subject was presented with a box of items ranging from windshield wiper motors to rubber bands.
The goal of the course is to design, build and drive, via remote control, a machine that can perform assigned tasks while defending itself against competing machines. The contest is structured as a single elimination competition, with rounds lasting 45 seconds each.
For MechEverest, the tasks include climbing the mountain and dumping hockey pucks into holes. Each competitor may begin with up to 10 hockey pucks loaded into his or her machine. The object is to drop the pucks into the cross-shaped holes as high as possible on the table. Contestants' machines may not cross the center line of the "mountain" to attack an opponent's machine until he or she has scored at least one point.
"This year's contest is particularly challenging because gravity is no longer the contestant's automatic friend," Professor Slocum said. "In addition, there are a number of structural issues, such as a lightly damped compliant steel surface, magnets in the kit, and heavy hockey pucks as the scoring items."
'A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE'
Mechanical engineering junior David Abrameto, who came in second place in last year's contest, "Ballcano," is an undergradate assistant for this year's class. "The course was very stressful and time-consuming, but also very educational. Last year's contest was a fantastic experience, and I personally had a great time going all the way to the finals and finishing second overall," he said.
Said Jennifer D. Navarro, a junior in mechanical engineering and another Design 2.007 veteran, "2.007 is a great course. You learn planning, design, machining and time management, among other things. It's probably one of the most enjoyable learning experiences I've had at MIT. The contest is also a great way to display what you have learned throughout the semester -- it's much better than a final exam!"
MechEverest is free and open to the public.
A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).