With the goal of transforming a pile of trash into four functional machines, 16 Yalies gathered in the depths of Mason Laboratory on Saturday for the Yale Engineering Design Team’s third annual Junk Yale Wars competition.
Modeled on the television show “Junkyard Wars,” the event features competing teams who create working contraptions out of scraps of trash collected from Yale’s campus. This year, four teams competed to design and build vehicles capable of climbing the stairs on Cross Campus in front of Sterling Memorial Library. Using old tires, wooden planks, abandoned desk chairs, and other scraps of junk, the teams worked to create their project goals, which were revealed at the start of the event.
The majority of materials were gathered from campus dumpsters, and other necessary building items were purchased or donated. The teams worked from 12 to 5 p.m. to construct manual working models, which were evaluated on Cross Campus that evening.
“Sitting in a classroom and learning calculations can only get you so far,” YEDT co-founder James Salzano ’06 said. “To get outside of the classroom and build can teach us so much more than just memorizing equations.”
A true winner of the event was not declared during the competition, since all four models successfully mounted the Cross Campus stairs. Instead, each team performed a different facet of the event, such as speed or distance, better than the other teams.
Rivalry, though, was not the main focus of YEDT; participants said the experience of teamwork and design served as the primary goal of Junk Yale Wars.
“Given the same problem, we’ve come up with four completely different solutions,” said event coordinator Jonathan Hartman ’09. “That takes real creativity.”
For the members of YEDT, Junk Yale Wars expands beyond merely an entertaining way of exploring engineering. The event is open to all Yalies and attracts students of different backgrounds — in engineering and in the liberal arts and sciences.
“[Junk Yale Wars] is about the serendipitous meeting between an engineering major and an English major,” Salzano said. “These random encounters with people who you would have never met otherwise lead to great and different experiences.”
One of many YEDT projects, Junk Yale Wars is one example of the organization’s creativity. Past competitions have included constructing amphibious vehicles and clocks that make noises every 30 seconds from the action of marbles running down various shoots.
“We’ve had very strong showings each year,” Drausin Wulsin ’07 said.
Wulsin said he thought of this year’s concept after waking up in the middle of the night.
“None have been complete successes, but if they were, then the projects wouldn’t be challenging enough,” he said.
YEDT co-founder Daniel Wiznia ’06 said the organization hopes to establish connections between engineering students and the Yale Engineering Department. Through various projects, members hope to contribute to the department’s appeal and to expand engineering activities.
Currently, the organization is working on building autonomous helicopters, a biodiesel SUV that runs on vegetable oil, and solar-powered boats.
“The Engineering Department on Yale’s campus has had a battle-scarred history, fighting its way to become a premiere department,” Salzano said. “It gives me a lot of hope to think that something we’re doing makes a difference in the program.”