APRIL 1998

A newsletter for alumni, students, and friends of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

ME Teams Win Top Three Prizes in Schoof's Brainstorm Contest

With the creation of a pedal-powered vehicle called Turbo Mule, a three-member team of engineering students have won the first place $10,000 prize in this year's The Schoofs Prize for Creativity. The winners were Brie Howley, Dave Waters, and Eric Wobig. Waters and Wobig are ME majors.

Brainstorm is the College of Engineering's annual invention contest sponsored by COE alumnus Richard Schoofs. Now in its fourth year, the contest awards cash prizes to the undergraduates whose ideas are judged most creative, novel, and likely to succeed in the marketplace.

The Turbo Mule was designed to carry heavy loads over rough terrain, perhaps to provide inexpensive transportation in Third-World countries where roads are often nonexistent. In addition to the first place prize, the pedal wagon also won a $2,500 Aschenbrenner Best Prototype award.

Eric Wobig, a junior ME major, said that the idea for the Turbo Mule came from an earlier student project that sought to develop a vehicle for use in Ghana. "We loved the idea, but hated that design, so we took it and ran," Wobig said. "The end product has a similar frame but no other similarities to the earlier design." The team members worked evenings and weekends to re-engineer the vehicle. "The night before the judging, we worked for 18 hours straight to get it done because UPS lost our components and we didn't get them until the night before the competition," said Wobig. Dave Waters said that one class that was particularly helpful in designing some portions of the vehicle was ME 342, the Machine Component Design class.
1998 Brainstorm winner

Brie Howley, Dave Waters, and Eric Wobig demonstrate Turbo Mule, their first place entry in the creativity competition, for Richard Schoofs, the contest sponsor. (41K JPG)

The team is already receiving marketing ideas. Wobig said that one has come from COE Dean Bollinger. "He asked me to put together a proposal for the Kohler Company for them to adopt the Turbo Mule as a means of delivering their large household products--like bathtubs--in China."

Second place in the competition went to a team of four ME students: Laura Jensen, Patrick Maguire, Chad Vande Hei, and Vidya Balakrishnan. These students won $7,000 for a mechanism designed to safely lower or raise a person from a wheelchair-accessible toilet. The Up-Lift has potential uses in nursing homes and home-care situations because it moves with the user and fits on a standard commode without remodeling the restroom. Laura Jensen said that they developed their project idea in Senior Design class, ME 349.

The third place winner of $4,000 was Scott Kurszewski, an ME senior, for his invention of a quick-release, self-locking clamp used to secure a snowmobile to its trailer. Kurszewski also won a $2,500 Aschenbrenner prototype award. He said that he was planning to do this project for his senior design class, but after noticing a poster for the Brainstorm contest, he decided to start a little early. "I guess it paid off," he said. He is currently talking with a company that sounds very interested in his invention. "As a backup," he said, "I am also checking on the feasibility of a patent, and Professor Milestone has been very helpful in explaining that process."

Kurszewski added that the Schoof's contest experience was beneficial because he plans to become a design engineer after graduation in August. "I learned how to communicate my thoughts to others and how to bring a design from the idea to a real marketable item," he said.

Another ME entry in the Schoof's competition was a redesign of a Norton Featherbed motorcycle frame. Team members were Jonas Zahn and ME majors Bryce Metcalf and Scott McKenzie.

ME Newsletter is a periodic publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Correspondence should be sent to the address below.

ME Newsletter
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1513 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1572

      Editor: Gail Gawenda

Designer: Lynda Litzkow

Last Modified: Wednesday, 20-May-1998 12:00:00 CDT

APRIL 1998 Contents