Project (SP13)

August 18th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

SP ’13 Project – The Pointless Machine

Objective: Your team is tasked with building a machine whose sole function is to turn itself off.


  • The machine must be turned on via a physical component that is manipulated by the user (e.g. a switch, button or lever).
  • The machine must be turned off by this same physical component, by either a similar operation (e.g. pushing the same button) or an opposite operation (e.g. flipping a lever in the opposite direction as the flip on).
  • To make things interesting, your team must pick a time interval between 5 seconds and 1 minute, the machine must turn itself off within 3 seconds of the end of this interval
  • After being activated by your lab instructor, the machine cannot be interacted with during the timed interval (i.e. no touching).
  • Your team’s testing period is 3 minutes. Multiple attempts are allowed within this period.
  • The device must be designed and built by your team. Components may be sourced from vendors but must be team assembled. What is and is not considered to be team-built is to be determined by your lab instructor and/or Dr. Hutcheson.


  • The machine must be verified to be safe by your lab instructor BEFORE used by your team.
  • No explosions may be used.
  • The device must fit within a 24” by 24” rectangular area and be less than 60” tall before being activated.
  • Any safety issues are up to your instructor’s judgment.
  • The maximum allowable voltage in your team’s device is 25V.
  • If your team uses batteries, the combined maximum mass of batteries allowed is 1kg.


  • Once ready to test, your team’s device must be activated by the lab instructor, the component used to turn the machine on must be clearly labeled ON.
  • External control and energy is NOT allowed, once activated your team’s device must operate on its own.


  • Performance(30%)
    • Turn off time within 3s of specified interval: 10 points.
    • Turn off time within 2s of specified interval: 20 points.
    • Turn off time within 1s of specified interval: 30 points.
  • Complexity (30%) will be assessed by counting energy transformations. For this project, complexity is desired and the most complex machines will receive the highest scores for complexity. During alpha testing, a minimum number of transformations for receiving full complexity points will determined. See the following list of acceptable forms of energy:
    • Translational Mechanical (e.g. a button),
    • Rotational Mechanical (e.g. a lever),
    • Electrical (e.g. an electrical circuit),
    • Hydraulic (e.g. falling water),
    • Pneumatic (e.g. blowing air),
    • Chemical (e.g. a component that is dissolved),
    • Note: Nuclear  energy is not allowed due to safety reasons.
  • Aesthetics/style points(30%):
    • Team name on design (10%),
    • Team logo on design (10%),
    • Design is painted or decorated (10%).
  • Instructor’s Tilt(10%)

The course coordinator (Dr. Hutcheson) reserves the right to revise this project description at any point in the semester to address safety and/or project definition issues.


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