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Design 2.007 contest to feature matchup of past winners

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The Department of Mechanical Engineering will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the internationally known Design 2.007 contest on Tuesday, May 9 at 6pm in the Johnson Athletic Center.

The contest is a two-night elimination tournament in which robots designed and built during the semester by students in course 2.007 (Introduction to Design and Manufacturing) try to complete certain tasks. Once they score, they can attempt to block other machines from scoring points.

This year's contest is called "Sojourner This: Y2.007K'd" also known as "MechaImpacta-Geddon." Named for the little rock-collecting rover that went to Mars, "Sojourner This" challenges robots to complete a simulated Mars science mission that may be disrupted by the impact of a large asteroid. The contest goal is to see who can gather the most "Mars rocks" including, if possible, the asteroid.

The first contest, held in 1972, was called "A Better Mousetrap." Since then, Design 2.007 has had titles ranging from the political ("Watergater," 1974) to the pop-cultural ("The Cuckoo's Nest," 1988) to the purely whimsical ("Ballcano," 1997 and "MechEverest," 1998). The robots have had to gather such things as plastic bottles, ping-pong balls and hockey pucks, move glass marbles or play tug of war.

"Sojourner This" will be unique in the history of the contest -- many past winners of the contest will be in attendance, and some will build machines to compete in a special "Legends of 2.007" contest on the same day.


At the beginning of the semester, students in 2.007 (formerly known as 2.70) are given a kit of materials and asked to design a robot to accomplish a certain task. The objective of the course, which also includes twice-weekly lectures and many hours in the Pappalardo Laboratory, is to help develop the students' competence, creativity and self-confidence via hands-on design.

Students first develop a concept by application of creativity and physics, make computer models and foam mockups of their concepts, engineer the details, build their machines and have them ready to "ship" in time for the final event.

The kits distributed in the early years included such items as computer cards, Venetian blind slats, plastic spoons, tongue depressors, rubber bands, paper clips, 5x7 note cards, a pencil and a pound of sand.

This year's kit contains mainly raw materials such as windshield wiper motors, gears, pneumatic pistons and lots of structural materials from which students design and fabricate complex machines.

The principal corporate sponsors for Design 2.007 are Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Guidant Inc., Parametric Technology Corp. and Solid Works Corp. Numerous other companies provide the materials used in the kit.


In 1990, the Design 2.007 contest went international when the winner and several other students in the course traveled to Japan to participate in the International Design Contest (IDC). The IDC was modelled on MIT's Design 2.007, with teams of six students, each from a different country. In 1990, the students were split into two groups and paired so an American and a Japanese student worked together. As neither student spoke the other's language, they had to collaborate using the language of design.

The international contest (which may or may not be held this year) has been held annually since 1990, and the competition now includes the United States, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, France and the United Kingdom.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 29, 2000.

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