Challenge winners Juniors Andrew Farruggio and Cory Martin launching their device. Photo courtesy of Syerra Milliman

Campbell’s Scrambler Challenge

February 7, 2018

Teacher Doug Campbell’s Principles of Engineering class participated in an intense competition on Jan. 26. The competition, called the Scrambler Challenge, asked students to design and build a contraption that uses energy from a falling mass to transport an egg along a straight path, then stop as close as possible to a barrier without breaking the egg.

When asked why he chose this challenge for his students, Campbell said he chose it for three reasons. “First, the mechanical aspects relate directly to physics and engineering curriculum. Second, it requires some imagination [and] actual hands on building and testing instead of simply doing pencil and paper activities. Third, the highest grades go to the best results. That is how real engineering solutions are treated.”

Contraptions had to be designed to travel a distance of 7-10 meters as quickly as possible without leaving a two-meter-wide lane.The entire contraption had to fit into a 36-inch cube when preparing to launch. The falling mass used to propel the device could not exceed one kilogram and could not be dropped from a height more than 36 inches from the floor. Junior Cory Martin said the hardest part of the challenge was “trying to figure out how to drop the weight to make the car go fast.”

Scoring was based on the run time and the stopping distance, with run time being measured from the time the falling mass was dropped until the device came to a complete stop. The stopping distance was then measured to the nearest inch. An additional two inches for every inch the device traveled outside the two-meter-wide path would be added to the measured stopping distance.

Students were allowed to work alone or in groups of two, and were given ten minutes to set up their device prior to launching. Each group could launch their device twice and keep their best score from the two launches. The group with the lowest performance value won the competition.

Martin and his partner, junior Andrew Farruggio, won the challenge. “They had less friction in their system and did not carry the mass with the vehicle,” said Campbell. Martin said he enjoyed the challenge, stating “it was pretty fun, especially trying to build the car with only items around the house.”

The challenge was supposed to be a “junkyard battle” in which students could only use items around their house to build their contraptions. When asked what he would change if he could do it over again, Martin said “I would be more careful with the items around the house I chose.”

Students interested in taking Principles of Engineering (POE) must have taken Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) or have teacher permission if they have done well in math. “I often let physics students take POE if their schedules made it hard to get IED first,” said Campbell.

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