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AK Uni team wins international design competition

8 October 2004

University of Auckland team wins international design competition

A team of students from The University of Auckland has beaten teams from around Australasia to win the prestigious Weir-Warman Design and Build Competition held in Sydney.

The Auckland team, made up of second year students from the Faculty of Engineering, beat teams from 16 other universities to claim first prize. Kelvin Peng (20), Eric Yang (20) and Rob Horsley (22) won A$750 and the coveted trophy.

The annual competition, now in its 18th year, challenges second-year Mechanical Engineering students to solve practical problems set by the organisers and sponsors Weir-Warman International and Engineers Australia.

This year's challenge, called Project PEP (Potential Energy Propulsion), was to design a transport system that utilised potential energy from a falling 4kg weight. This energy was to be used to propel a device and weight of rice as far along a ramp as possible. The total weight of the device and the rice it transported was not to exceed 4kg.

Teams scored on how far their device travelled up the ramp and the weight of rice they transported.

Team Manager and Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering Dr Simon Bickerton says this year's design had several smart concepts and these combined with the design's simplicity helped them win.

"There were some very impressive devices with some teams coming up with a 4-wheel drive style car. Our students designed a very simple rolling cylinder which only weighed 400g and transported 3.6kg of rice.

"The cylinder didn't lose much energy when travelling up the ramp and a special braking mechanism held it in place when it reached the top," says Dr Bickerton.

The Auckland team went well prepared, with all members having cut their teeth in a local competition, where they beat five other teams to secure their trip to the grand finals in Sydney.

The winning trio credit the strong local competition for their success saying that they took inspiration from fellow students to improve their design. They also acknowledge the support of the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand, who funded the trip.

Dr Bickerton, who has mentored University of Auckland teams to the Weir-Warman competition for the last five years, says students are encouraged to participate each year as it is "a great learning experience".

"At second year level, there are few projects or competitions where students have the opportunity to be involved from the initial rules stage through to concepts, design, construction, and to finally actually test their invention.

"It's a great opportunity for students to put what they learn in lectures and tutorials to practice."

The Auckland team beat defending champions and winners for the past two years, the University of Western Australia into 2nd place.

The result highlights the superb record the Department of Mechanical Engineering has had in the competition - winning a top three placing in five of the last six years, including three first prizes.


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