This week Engineers Without Borders held a viewing of Despicable Me with a discussion about the engineering involved in the movie. The discussion covered everything from Gru’s ridiculous “car” if you can even call it that, to the method he has of getting to his basement, and finally to the shrink ray that Gru and Vector fight over. The first problem us engineers had with Gru’s car was the fact that it was jet powered, yet seemed to have the same sort of throttle response as a standard car. This just isn’t possible as regular cars transfer energy through gears and drive shafts to directly power the wheels, whereas Gru’s jet car would use thrust and the power would not go through the wheels., this means that Gru could not have done the burnouts he did.
The next item on the discussion list was Gru’s obnoxious way of getting to his basement, surely a vault with some stairs or a standard elevator would maintain the same level of security without as much risk for parts breaking. In the first engineering class here at Union we are taught to Keep it Simple Stupid which is something that Gru clearly didn’t learn as fewer parts reduces the risk of error and the overall complexity of the machine. But I must say watching Gru simply walk down stairs wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining.
Having an entire group of engineers discuss a shrink ray is not something that I thought would happen at college, but it did and it was a mess. There were so many theories being thrown out as to how the shrink ray actually worked, from shrinking the actual atoms the object was made up of, to shortening the bond length between those atoms. I was more an advocate of the bond length theory, but even that would change the physics of the object so much it wouldn’t be the same object anymore. The idea of a shrink ray involved such complex physics that eventually everyone gave up and went home as an agreement could not be reached. This event was one of the best events I had been to all year and really made me appreciate the creators engineering creativity, even if it wasn’t always the most straight forward, believable approach.