Mechanical Engineering Students Win Competition

Seven North Dakota State mechanical engineering students participated in the 3M Disruptive Design Challenge April 11-13. For the competition, they had to design a container that could drop from 50 feet and land safely to transport “medical supplies,” simulated as three glass bottles.

The team consisted of seniors Stacy Staab, Brendan Nelson and Jay Goebel and juniors Braden Lauch, Aaron Knudtson, Ninad Kashyap and team captain Jonathan Carlson. The team had three supporting professors to help them through the competition and process: Ali Amiri, Chad Ulven and Jordi Estevadeordal.

Against three other universities, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin-Madison, NDSU’s model won the competition. Each team member not only gained experience and an addition to their resume, but also a cash prize of $1,500.

The students have worked together on the project since February, as well as individually focusing on one aspect of the container.

“A lot of it was openly brainstorming and everyone throwing around ideas and chipping in whenever we needed it,” Carlson explained.

When winning the challenge, the team was able to see the differences between their models and models from other schools.

“I think what benefited us the most was it could fall on really any side of the container and the bottles would have been safe. Given our design, the three other teams needed to be oriented when they fell so they would land on a specific side,” Carlson shared.

Throughout the competition, their biggest challenge was keeping up with the short amount of time that they had to construct and build the model.

“Two and a half months isn’t a ton of time to design and build something, so that was a little bit challenging,” Carlson said. “We had to put in a whole lot of long days to get our container done.”

Through coursework at NDSU, they were able to understand and design an effective model. Carlson explained how previous classes helped them mostly with the conceptual design of the container. Another aspect of the challenge was to use 3M’s company adhesives and tapes instead of the typical bolts and screws.

“We took our basic knowledge from NDSU and then the supplementary education from 3M about their adhesives and tapes and sort of combined those together,” Carlson explained.

The challenge is meant to give students and future engineers an opportunity to take their knowledge from classes and apply it to a situation in the real world.

“The biggest thing that is going to benefit us from the competition is just sort of that real-world experience. We were given a very vague problem, and we had to use what we knew, what we could learn in that time, to solve a real-world problem like emergency relief,” Carlson explained.

Overall, their experience helped them use their knowledge outside of a classroom, allowing them to see how beneficial a competition can really be.

“I would definitely recommend anyone do any sort of challenge outside of school and any major that they’re in,” Carlson said.“I think it’s a great way to see real world problems and get experience in doing projects outside of school.”

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