Principles of Engineering Students Present Marble-Sorting Robots

Catherine Wiesehuegel, Reporter

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  • Vasti Ramos ’18 presents her group’s robot to the class.

  • Mr. Doug Landers gives critiques to one group’s robot.

  • The class watches one group’s presentation.

  • Ramsey Foote ’19 presents his group’s scale.

  • A group makes small adjustments before the final presentation.

  • Alex Du’Bont ’19 stands by his robot.

  • Final adjustments are made on one group’s robot.

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The Principles of Engineering students recently presented their marble-sorting robots to their classmates on Tuesday, April 11. The project proved to be very difficult for the students, many of whom were unable to accomplish the task.

“I hate to see students fail at this project, but they will,” Mr. Doug Landers said. “That’s OK, but they still get hurt when they fail. That’s why I like to do this project, because they learn how to deal with failure.”

The premise of the project was to build a robot capable of sorting 4-5 different kinds of marbles and place them into different bins.

“So we give them marbles — they have five different marbles: wood, aluminum, glass, plastic, and steel,” Mr. Clement DePalma, class assistant, said. “They have to figure out what the material is, and put it into the right bin.”

Though their grades were not fully dependent on the functionality of their robot, most groups were making adjustments to the last second in an attempt to make them work correctly.

“It’s all about the frustration and then the persistence, and getting it just kinda to work at all is just exhilarating,” Jenny Zhang ‘19 said.  

The project requires students to demonstrate everything they have learned in engineering thus far, with the only limitations being that they could not start a fire in an attempt to sort the marbles.

“[The] biggest struggle was getting the gate to actually work,” Zhang said.  “Before, we had a bunch of different gate designs [and] most of them were letting two or three marbles through at the same time, and some of the marbles were going through too fast so the sensors couldn’t pick up any data.”

Mr. Landers and Mr. DePalma offered minimal advice, encouraging the students to solve problems within the group.

“The students learn how to work as a team, on how to resolve conflicts when two people want something different,” Mr. Depalma said.

Overall, the projects taught students how to work together to solve problems in stressful situations.

“Even though not all the robots worked,” Zhang said. “It was a fun project and we all learned [a lot].”