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.