MBARC stands for “Model-Based Amphibious Racing Challenge”. In this competition, our school as well as others across the nation were sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design, model, and build a fully functional scaled-down amphibious vehicle. We then would meet up with the other schools and representatives from DARPA on a military base to race these vehicles against each other on a half land, half water course.
Our vehicle had a few unique features that helped give our team an edge over the competition. It was the only vehicle to have an exterior-mounted suspension, allowing us to streamline our hull design to slice through water more effectively. We integrated a water cooling system which used an internal water reservoir while on land, and siphoned in external water for cooling while on the lake. We were also the only team to use a turbojet for propulsion, which draws in water from beneath the hull and accelerates it through a vectored nozzle for faster and more easily controlled propulsion. Finally, we hand-molded our hull out of kevlar, allowing it to withstand the punishment of the rocky beach with ease.
Testing Beyond Our Limits
Our first day on the base was spent subjecting our vehicle to its first full-scale test in competition conditions. We wanted to push our vehicle further than it would be stressed on competition day, to ensure our vehicle design was sound. At the very end of the day we pushed it too far, causing an electronic speed controller (ESC) to explode and actually melt through some of our electronic and water cooling components. We were more than prepared for this, and would not have been stress testing the vehicle so far beyond its limits otherwise. We had brought replacements for any part that could fail, After some late-night disassembly and reassembly, we were ready for competition day.
Our vehicle performed fantastically on competition day, winning three of the four events.
From left to right, grey shirts only: Peter Holly, Grant Brennecke, Alok Hota, Ryan Hess, Nathan Hollis, Brandon Dimmig, Dexter Watkins, Andrew Leopold, Tom Withrow
Not Pictured: Kevin Bush, Christopher Twedell
ORECK, a major vacuum cleaner company, contracted a group of us students for design work through an MBA course. We were asked to conceptualize, design, and prototype breakthrough vacuum cleaner features for them. We all came up with concepts and presented them to Senior Design Engineers from ORECK, who then eliminated any ideas that were either not plausible, not unique, or didn’t have a market. In this group of six, four of which were MBA students, ideas I had proposed ended up comprising four of the five concepts the ORECK engineers liked most, and were implemented in our final concept vacuum
This concept of mine that was the most well received by the Senior Design Engineers and the CEO. ORECK has a sensor they currently use in their air purifiers to detect the amount of dust in the air as it flows through their purifier, and that data is used adjust the speed of the purifier’s fan accordingly. For the Edge Lighting concept, I proposed that we repurpose this technology to detect the amount of dirt being sucked into the vacuum, and change the color of lighting around the edge of the vacuum head accordingly. This would provide additional feedback to the user when vacuuming, so that when the vacuum head changes from glowing blue to purple, they can continue vacuuming the dirty area until the head switches back to blue, signaling the area is clean.
The second most well-received concept of mine added a bit of fun to the vacuuming process, while also addressing a problem with vacuums – cleaning edges and corners of rooms. By design, vacuum heads have a very hard time cleaning the extreme edges of a room, especially in narrow spaces like underneath kitchen cabinets. My concept, the Edge Blaster, allowed the user to pull a trigger on the handle to shoot air out of ports in the side of the vacuum head, which would blow any dust in hard-to-reach areas out in front of the vacuum, making it easy to vacuum up.
The way the Edge Blaster operated was by redirecting exhaust air from the vacuum cleaner back down to the head of the vacuum and out of side ports. We were able to roughly prototype this feature for ORECK by directly redirecting this exhaust air using the tubing and accessories that came with the vacuum. The CEO of ORECK was so impressed with the concepts I had contributed and our group’s prototype that he personally invited me to intern with their company and take the lead on some future design explorations of theirs.