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Marble Runner Design Challenge

October 29, 2022

Cohort 1 of Next Engineers returned in October, and with it, our 50 scholars were tasked with their first design challenge of the new Engineering Academy Year. To motivate them for the new session they were gifted book bags and t-shirts with a custom Next Engineers design imprinted. 

After, they received information on their design challenge from Logan Wade, a Ph.D. Candidate from Clemson University's Civil Engineering Program. He charged them with the Marble Run Design Challenge, in which students have to construct a structure out of given materials to keep a marble in motion for a minimum of 3 minutes, starting at the height of 1 meter or less. 

Some of the provided materials included cardboard, paper, wire, toothpicks, and other everyday household items. Mr. Wade started his presentation by giving some examples of how to tackle the problem with a lesson on civil engineering techniques for structure and stability. The teams then divided into groups where they started the process of planning their builds, through the use of discussion, sketches, and some even used 3D modeling Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. 

Some common methods were to have a steady but shallow incline with obstacles that would delay the movement of the marble without halting it entirely. One group was inspired by the Plinko arcade machine that uses a series of pegs in a corkboard to slowly drop the marble. After the planning period, students began the construction phase where many ran into challenges with the limited materials available. 

By using their resources effectively and iterating through the trial-and-error process, all of the groups came up with unique and functional designs. They then presented these designs and highlighted their hurdles as well as their successes in the process; feedback was then given by Mr. Wade, their peers, and PEER/WISE staff. 

Everyone was ecstatic with how much the scholars accomplished with limited resources and time. We all look forward to seeing how students continue to grow in their next design challenge!