A team of MSOE freshmen, dubbed the “Imagineers,” took second place in the Technical Challenge at the Destination Imagination Global Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. The first-year team came together and placed in the top of the standings with their creative solution to designing and building a piece of equipment that could detect and remove hidden objects.

DI_team.jpgThe MSOE Imagineers and their majors are: Patrick Holston, biomolecular engineering; Katie Hornberger, biomolecular engineering; Dan Miller, software engineering; Kevin Muldowney, software engineering; Joe Ruggiero, mechanical engineering; Wyatt Starck, electrical engineering; and Monica Tessman, biomolecular engineering. Mandy Runnalls, MSOE admissions counselor, is the team’s advisor.

To complete the challenge, the team had to stick to a budget of $185 or less. They made 16 containers and 10 objects, and randomly placed the objects into the containers. Their objects were pieces of PVC pipe, filled with three pounds of concrete. Their piece of equipment to detect, remove and transport the objects across the finish line consisted of a stretched guitar string over a wooden rig.

To detect an object, the containers were pulled through a housing that was suspended on the guitar string. They plucked the guitar string with a solenoid pick, and the change in weight on the housing changed the pitch of the guitar string. The frequency was recorded by a team-made guitar pickup, and inputted to a computer where the frequency was analyzed by team-created software. The computer determined if there was an object in the container based on the frequency. This data was sent to an Arduino and a circuit panel controlling a winch motor, pick-solenoid and pneumatic solenoid. There also was an ultrasonic sensor as an input to the Arduino. When the container was in position to be analyzed the ultrasonic sensor stopped the winch motor. If an object was detected, a piston would eject it out and down a ramp.  The object would then roll across the finish line.

Their second place finish was amazing given how late they started relative to the teams they were competing against, and only two of MSOE’s team members had prior experience with Destination Imagination. Large crowds watched them debug and build their device. After their competition round several people approached them to see how they were able to do what they did. It was a great effort showcasing their electrical, software, mechanical and biological knowledge.

Destination Imagination is a cause-driven volunteer-led non-profit organization dedicated to teaching students the creative process through STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the arts and service learning challenges. The challenge program gives teams the opportunity to solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions at local tournaments which can qualify them to compete at global finals.

Milwaukee School of Engineering is an independent, non-profit university with about 2,600 students that was founded in 1903. MSOE offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, business, mathematics and nursing. The university has a national academic reputation; longstanding ties to business and industry; dedicated professors with real-world experience; a 96% placement rate; and the highest average starting and mid-career salaries of any Wisconsin university according to PayScale Inc. MSOE graduates are well-rounded, technologically experienced and highly productive professionals and leaders.