Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Special Features

Games Machines Play

  Teetering to Victory
Photo of Will Lark
  Student Will Lark tastes the thrill of victory.

As MIT Professor Ernesto Blanco tells FRONTIERS, "practically everything in mechanical design is involved" in Course 2.007, including "a bit of frustration." At the start of each course, students are asked to build a machine that can accomplish a certain task as quickly and efficiently as possible. At semester's end, each creation competes for the top prize, in a very public and very rowdy forum.

FRONTIERS has covered this event for many years, and this year the competition is a thrilling as ever. The challenge to these young students: to build a machine that begins by sitting on one end of a seesaw-like beam and that after 45 seconds, has managed to bring its side of the beam lower than that of the opponent on the opposite end. Another catch - they can only create their device from a box of parts provided, and the machine can not exceed 10 lbs.

Photo of Alan Speaking with Students
Alan meets some of MIT's creative contestants.  

Our cameras rendez-vous with the students at several points during the semester, and the ideas taking shape are fantastic in their scope. Some students are attempting to grab the carpet to pull their side to victory. Others are relying on a magnet that is attached to the base and a winch that reels in the beam. Still others are going for the all-out-aggressor approach, choosing to drive to the other side, knock their opponent to the floor, and scurry back before time is called.

Once the competition begins, many of the students we have followed survive several heats. But it becomes quickly apparent who has the most formidable design. Will Delhagen and his friend Alex Jacobsen have each created a jack that drops to the floor and raises the opponent's end of the beam, consistently and without mercy. In the end, they manage to achieve a tie, or as they say at MIT, a "double win."

For more on this topic, see the web features:
Young Inventors

Return to Show Page




World Cup for RobotsSuperhuman SubsTeetering to Victory Contact Search Homepage Teaching guide Science hotline video trailer Resources