Students prep junk for competition

Searching Yale’s campus for old tires, insulation pipes and damaged printers might not sound like an amusing scavenger hunt for most Yalies, but for Drausin Wulsin ’07 and Jonathan Hartman ’09, it’s a matter of tradition.

This weekend, the Yale Engineering Design Team will host its fourth annual Junk Yard competition, in which students utilize the junk they are able to gather around campus and turn it into something mobile. The event typically attracts 15 to 25 participants, who will work for eight hours in the dark rooms of the Mason Laboratory basement on Saturday afternoon in order to craft their creations.

Students work on a creation built from rubbish salvaged around campus at the Yale Engineering Design Team’s Junk Yard competition in 2006.
Students work on a creation built from rubbish salvaged around campus at the Yale Engineering Design Team’s Junk Yard competition in 2006.

“The competition is open to everyone — both engineers and non-engineers,” Hartman said. “It’s a fun and unique opportunity to see and contrast what the engineers and-non engineers will be building.”

The participants will attempt to make a “mobile machine” that can be moved from the Mason basement up through the elevator in Becton Center and then out onto Prospect Street, Wulsin said.

Despite the fact that the competition is eight hours long, the participants are not required to stay in the lab during the whole period and may come and go as they please, Hartman said. Although the procedures and rules for the competition this year will be similar to those in previous years, there will be a brainstorming session the night before the competition.

“Unlike previous years, we are going to reveal the competition rules a night early so that teams will have the opportunity to start designing their entries before they go into the lab on Saturday,” Hartman said. “This will give them the chance to plan beforehand and not to rush on Saturday morning.”

Wulsin, the YEDT’s building events coordinator, said although the event is called a “competition,” they will not name a winning designer, nor will they award “trophies.”

“There isn’t a decisive winner because all of the designs are very creative and there can’t possibly be a perfect ‘design,’” he said. “It’s more about the experience and the fun.”

TJ Myelle ’08, who participated in the competition last year, said he was able to connect with many other students interested in mechanical engineering through the event.

“It was great teamwork activity,” he said. “I met other people who are interested in doing these projects who are not necessarily engineering majors. … It was a project that I really enjoyed doing.”

Previous design projects have included amphibious vehicles — vehicles that drive both on water and land — Rube Goldberg machines and stair-climbing vehicles.

Interested students who don’t want to take part in the competition but are interested in observing can watch the proceedings from the Becton Plaza.

In addition to organizing the Junk Yard competition, the YEDT sponsors many other events on campus around the year, such as seminars by preeminent faculty, three long-term research projects and a program to facilitate the pairing of students with faculty and research opportunities.

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