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First-year engineering students ride through roller coaster competition

Brandon Rosin / Lantern photographer

The wind is still as your back is pressed firmly against the seat. Your hands grip the bar of the cart as you and others plummet down the roller coaster’s track.

What if that roller coaster was designed by an Ohio State student?

“The actual structure of the coaster is simple,” said Daniel Smith, a first-year pre-major in mechanical engineering. “Ours looks like an actual coaster.”

On Wednesday, the Roller Coaster and Advanced Energy Vehicle Competition was held in the Physics Research Building’s atrium.

The event marked the last “loop” for the Roller Coaster Competition, which has been an eight-year tradition at OSU.

Lisa Miyake, an office assistant for the College of Engineering’s First-Year Program, said the program is switching the competition to an all AEV challenge on main campus because building AEVs are more challenging and because after eight years of doing the roller coaster competition, the program wanted to move on.

The competition, which was strictly for members of the College of Engineering’s First-Year Program, saw 36 different teams compete.

Victor Magdaleno, a first-year pre-major in mechanical engineering, said the AEV competition had a purpose.

“The whole point of the AEV is that the city of Columbus is trying to make a CABS system using the AEV prototype,” Magdaleno said. “The whole thing is like CABS 2020.”

John Merrill, the director of the First-Year Engineering Program, said students spent about 12-14 hours building their projects and explained how the students were judged.

“They’re judged on three categories, most innovative, best engineered and best documentation,” Merrill said.

The five judges were not professors of the competitors, Merrill said.

The participating teams had to earn the opportunity to compete, as each team won a roller coaster or AEV competition held in separate sections of the same course. A graduate teaching assistant helped each team in the competition. For those in the roller coaster challenge, the object was to send a small ball down the track and into a small box at the end of the track. The ball also had to set off speed sensors that signaled it was going fast enough.

Students made the roller coasters small PVC pipe and plastic track. The roller coasters were not allowed to exceed the dimension of 4 feet by 5 feet.

Ryan Schneider, a first-year in computer science and engineering, saw his team’s ability to compete as a compliment.

“They send one team per class, so our teacher picked us to be the best,” Schneider said.

Schneider said one thing that could be improved in the competition was motivation.

“Having a reason to go all-out would give us more incentive to do our best,” Schneider said.

The AEV competition featured small vehicles moving via a propeller and pulley wheels across a metal bar. The vehicles had to stop at two terminals. The first stop was four seconds long, while the second was 10 seconds long and required the vehicle to have a 50-gram weight attached to it that represented cargo. The vehicle then had to travel the track in reverse and was judged for energy efficiency.

By competing against each other, students had the opportunity to have their work judged by a professional.

Jeff Gramke, the manager of facilities, engineering and construction at Kings Island, was one of the judges.

“I think it’s great,” said Gramke, one of the two designers behind Kings Island’s “The Beast” roller coaster. “You have a bunch of innovative designs, each team puts something different in it that they like to see in roller coasters.”

Gramke also emphasized the competition’s real-world utility.

“I think it gives them something exciting to relate all the math to,” Gramke said. “It keeps young engineers excited about their futures and possibilities, things they didn’t think of that they could use their education for.”

After judging ended, the participants went to Scott Laboratories where they had a brief dinner before a Q-and-A session with Gramke. Then various teams received their awards. The awards ceremony saw teams such as Tesla’s Twist, Purple Haze and Cyclonus Overkill Silverbolts take home award certificates and gift cards to Barnes & Noble.

The end of the awards ceremony signaled the end of the first-year program’s roller coaster competition on main campus. The competition will continue at the Mansfield and Marion OSU branch campuses.

Merrill said the AEV competition was replacing the Roller Coaster Competition.

Despite the absence of the Roller Coaster Competition from main campus, Smith echoed Gramke’s thoughts on the real-world application of the competition.

“You actually sit down and use your hands and design,” Smith said.

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