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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Mechanical Sense of Humor by Laura N. '09

My Course 2 lab instructor is amazing.

This will be short, because I’m about to start another 2.671 (Mechanical Engineering Institute Lab Class) experiment, but I had to share with you the following, which was the first page of the background reading for this lab:

“You just graduated from MIT and are traveling around Europe for the summer before going to grad school. You start talking to a group of people in a pub in London, and when they find out you are a mechanical engineer, they become very excited. It turns out that they are building a robot for a robot-wars type of competition, and have been having problems figuring out which motor to use for their robot.

They tell you that the competition organizers have given them a large box full of motors with different model numbers. However, they were not given spec sheets, so they didn’t know which motor to use. The robot builders decided to use a tachometer to measure the motor rotational speed as a function of voltage. They found that all the motors in the box had about the same maximum speed, 5000-7000 rpm at 12V. This was ideal for their application, so they chose one of the motors at random and installed it in their robot. When they put their robot together and tested it, they found that the motor they had chosen was too weak. They would never be able to push the other robot off the stage! They realized that the problem was insufficient motor torque, but the competition was tomorrow, so they only had time to disassemble and reassemble the robot once. Therefore, they needed some way to figure out which motor could supply the highest torque without using their robot. They offered to let you join their team and participate in the competition if you could help them.

Luckily, you vaguely remembered an experiment you had performed in 2.671 using a Prony brake. They helped you assemble the parts you needed, and you tested all the motors until 2 AM the following morning. You then helped them install the highest torque motor in their robot and reassemble and test it. Luckily, the Underground was running on time, and you all made it to the competition just in time. As the robot you helped build won the competition, you reflected that this all-nighter was a lot more fun than when you worked all night writing lab reports for 2.671, especially since they shared the prize money with you.”

Basically, Dr. Hughey, the lab technician for this class, is absolutely amazing and has an incredible sense of humor. All of her lab instruction manuals have crazy clip art diagrams of non-technical things we have to do, like read a section in another hand out or show something to the instructor. Ask anyone who’s made it through Course 2, and they’ll all rave about how awesome she is. She’s also very heavily involved in WTP, the program for promoting women pursuing careers in engineering. Maybe I’ll write a blog entry about her one day…

Well, my lab partner (Adelaide ’09, who you’ve all heard about) just arrived, so it’s time to start working on the lab.

Happy Thursday!

14 responses to “Mechanical Sense of Humor”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yay for WTP! She was in charge of MechE and I was in EECS, but from what I saw (including a priceless karaoke performance) she seems pretty awesome.

  2. Harrison says:

    Remember what happened right BEFORE you posted this? Priceless. Ben Jones is so my hero.

  3. Laura says:

    Shut up, Harrison.

  4. bunny says:

    My Linear Algebra teacher last year gave us plenty of handouts like this, only most of them revolved around a crazy old hobo who got kicks killing the dreams of math students by making counterexamples to fundamental theorems.

    Did I mention that teacher was also a crazy brit who enjoyed drawing decapitated students on the blackboard, then writing names next to the picture when people talked during lecture? Awesome. Simply awesome.

    Anyways, I’d agree, the coolest teachers are always the ones making offbeat comments relating concepts to random and silly situations.And of course, those that do any sort of impersonations or dance(!)/sing, in addition to being out of their minds in the most attractive manner possible, are great teachers.

  5. Karen says:

    Your problem sounds an awful lot like the one that we get every year at the start of FIRST robotics season smile Maybe that’s only my team, though, because we always seem to lose the sheet / scratch the motor cases and have to look up the specs online…

  6. taran says:

    I am a high school sophomore on the other side of the world, but I think these would be priceless.

    Hack #1: Repeat the gnome incident…with beavers!

    Hack #2: Unleash the raw confusticating power of FIVE LIVE BEAVERS in the library (or anywhere else, for that matter).

    Please email me any ideas (hacks or need-to-know about applying to MIT:

    [email protected]

    PS: Tell Sarah Brubaker that Erich said hi.


  7. E Rosser says:

    @ Karen:
    FIRSTers UNITE! The Trusty Ole Kit’o’parts isn’t too hard to get confused with, though: 2 big CIMs, 2 little CIMs, a windows motor and some random small contraptions. But such offbeat lab backgrounds totally bring FIRST to mind. Dean and Woody for President!

    Course 2-*Shivers and sunconciously crosses fingers, toes, and, on a very magnified level, DNA strands.* The prof sounds AMAZING. Hope to see the awesomeness firsthand soon!

  8. Karen says:

    @ E Rosser: You obviously had one of those teams that ‘planned ahead’ and ‘organized things’. You probably knew which were the new CIMs and which were the old ones, and which worked and which didn’t. You probably didn’t have a huge file cabinet full of parts from previous years ‘just in case’.

    …as the one that usually gets stuck organizing things, I really envy your team smile

  9. Hilary says:

    Hi there! Your site is cool!

  10. Kelly says:

    Yay for Dr. Hughey and WTP!

  11. Dot says:

    Haha I love the back story. I wish my teacher made her labs so interesting.

  12. E Rosser says:

    @ Karen again:
    I sympathize, the role of “chief OCD Organizer” being mine on the team. As far as knowing which parts worked and which didn’t, we tended towards the old “trial and error” method. It sometimes happened that those trials AND the resulting errors became apparent during competitions, but that’s another story.
    But oh, the chaotic fervor of FIRST! Rivaled only by the eccentricities of places like MIT. Take care and Happy Posting!

  13. Mo says:

    I’m a member of Team 25!
    Can’t wait for the new season to start!!!