An interdisciplinary team of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering students from the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering placed third in the 2003 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Design Competition.
Members of the winning group are Paul Sommerfield, Marcos Flores, and Jamie Suarez, senior mechanical engineering students, and Robert Whitaker, a senior industrial engineering student.
This team from the University of Houston hosted the Design Competition at the Adam's Mark Hotel as part of the ASME Region X Conference. About three hundred attendees representing 29 student sections from the entire ASME Region X attended the conference. "We had a large, enthusiastic, and mostly supportive audience for the design competition," Flores says.
"The competition centered around a simulated open-pit mine." Flores explains. "The object of the competitions was to transport simulated ore (rice) up from the bottom of a straight ramp and deposit it into a chute at the top. We had to accomplish this with the potential energy of two liters of water that was elevated a meter. We had to convert the potential energy of the water to kinetic energy to move the device up, hence the name of our device, 'PTK (Potential to Kinetic) Engineering.'"
Each of the 18 teams competing required about 12 minutes to set up, conduct two runs, and remove their devices. Unfortunately, some of the teams' devices were plagued by problems incurred during their transportation. The actual results were not announced until the Region X Conference banquet the next evening.
Judges for the competition were selected from the industry for their experience and the expertise they could lend the students. The judges represented such prestigious firms as Shell Oil Company, Reliant Energy, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and Halliburton Energy Services.
Sommerfield and Flores approached the engineering faculty at the beginning of the semester and proposed a combination of the ASME Design Competition and their Design IV class. "The class helped us be strict on ourselves in terms of sticking to our timeframe," says Flores.