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LSSU Engineering Day Machine Competition:
Tips for building a successful machine

A successful competition machine combines a number of objective and subjective qualitities that fulfills tasks, follows rules and impresses judges.

  • The machine works. When it starts, it runs all the way through to completion with no human intervention and completes the required task.
  • It has a unifying theme. This year's theme is "Juice an Orange." Use your imagination.
  • Mechanical steps are more in the spirit. No team is penalized for having electrically powered steps, but a greater use of mechanical steps tends to impress judges more.
  • It has clearly visible steps. On many machines, it's hard to follow all the steps. Judges appreciate machines that are laid out so that as many steps as possible are clearly visible in sequence.
  • Keep the oral description of your machine simple, clear and crisp. Skits and other elaborate presentations tend to take too much time and distract rather than entertain.
  • Don't use flammable or other dangerous chemicals! This violates the rules. When the judges sit down to determine the winners, your machine will not be considered.

Design Strategy

  • Start with how you are going to finish your project. Perhaps a string is going to pull something. Work your way backwards from there. How is the string going to be pulled? Maybe a weight will pull it? Or a mousetrap. Yeah...a mousetrap! How will the mousetrap be triggered? You see the pattern? Come up with more than one way to "finish" the machine. Pehaps a lever arm will be used in place of the string to "finish" the machine. Now begin to think backwards as to how the lever arm will be moved.
  • It is very important that the machine be built on a stand. A stand will make sure that everything is in its proper place with the device is set up and will force your machine to work within its boundaries.
  • Be sure it is transportable. Not only will the device will need to fit into a vehicle or trailer, but through the doors of the building and competiton area. The entryways are double door access. Consider how your machine will break down and reassemble. Will you need to bring any tools or power cords? Wil the device get rattled and jostled during the journey?
  • Finally, the most important step in the process: Test everything together before it is brought to the competition.
 
 

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