Now why is it we never had subjects like this? Granted U.S. universities work quite differently and you typically only do two or three subjects concurrently, as opposed to half a dozen or more in Australia, but still…
I expect Rob will be especially envious, since the winners were given Fluke DMMs. :P
The actual engineering problem was fairly simple, really, when you think about it – navigate a marked area where the targets are known and simple pieces of metal, so you don’t even need any kind of sophisticated arm for grabbing them, just a magnet.
My approach to the problem probably would have been to just make the most powerful electromagnetic ever devised, and suck all the organs out from anywhere in the room. Personal preference though, you know. ;)
Also, this is kinda cool. I remember in high school, I think it was, we day-tripped to the CSIRO or somesuch to do a bunch of experimentation in forces, and they had a bunch of bridge-building kit but we didn’t get to use it for some reason. Darn.
We should definitely have done this as a lab exercise in second year physics. Except it always gets me that the way people test bridges like this is to add weights in discrete units – in the particular case above they used whole bricks. Umm… what? It would make far more sense to use water or sand, or something like that, that you can add to the bucket at a fixed, steady and small rate. Then seeing who won is simply a matter of measuring how much water/sand/whatever is in the bucket after it breaks. Easy. (or better yet use a precise measurement of the water/sand/whatever flow into the bucket)
And while I’m here, balsa-wood battleships! La Trobe’s perfectly suited to this – plenty of bodies of murky water, into which no-one would ever go to retrieve their sunken ship, nor would anyone care if you added a few to the millions of chairs, bodies and who-knows what else already there.
‘course, I don’t understand why no-one thought to use lit matches as projectiles – seems that’d get the job done a whole lot easier. Nor did I see any rams. Or torpedoes. Or submarines, for that matter. Bah!