Posted on Mar 12, 1999

While snow still blankets the ground, about 90 first-year students are getting a jump
on golf season. Indoors, that is.

This year's final project for the design module of Fundamentals of Engineering and
Computer Science (ESC 17) calls for teams to design a machine that will navigate a 3- by
8-foot surface covered with artificial turf and deposit up to ten golf balls into a hole
in the middle. The table resembles a putting green, and there are obstacles resembling
trees and berms. What makes it different from golf, however, is that two teams are trying
to “putt” at the same time from opposite ends.

Teams will square off for the competition – nicknamed “Dueling Duffers”
– on Friday, March 12, at 2:30 p.m. in the Reamer Campus Center Auditorium.

Some teams have taken an offensive approach by racing to the hole and depositing as
many balls as possible before the other team's machine shows up. Others are
defensive, with arms that block shots from the other team. One team plans to employ an
unusual feature – a catapult designed to land a rail between the other team's
vehicle and the hole, blocking every shot.

All teams have been given the same parts – two wheels and one swivel wheel, a
motor, and a solenoid to be used for steering or ball release. There are rules limiting
the size of the vehicle.

“Students like the head-to-head competition,” said Andrew Wolfe, assistant
professor of civil engineering. “And they are learning 'by accident' as
they are using their hands and seeing how things go together.”

Wolfe is teaching the module with Richard Wilk and William Keat of mechanical
engineering, and Cherrice Traver of EE/CS.

“Our final design project integrates the theory of design with the practical
aspects of construction and testing through an intense top-eliminator competition,”
said Dean of Engineering Robert Balmer. “This year's contest creates difficult
challenges for the students to overcome, and they rose to the occasion.”