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  5. Engineering mechanics students compete with unique inventions

Engineering mechanics students compete with unique inventions

The Litter Fitter, a human-powered trash compactor, which earned first prize in the 2009 competition.

The Litter Fitter, a human-powered trash compactor, which earned first prize in the 2009 competition. Submitted photo.

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A pedal-powered riding lawn mower, a green garbage disposal, an attachment for wheelchairs that increases traction in slick conditions: These (and others) are the designs that circulate inside engineering students’ minds.

And on Wednesday, Dec. 15, those designs will appear as fully functioning prototypes during the Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics Fall Design Competition.
For the competition, seven University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering mechanics student design teams will cap a semester of hard work and compete for more than $4,000 in prizes.

Each team will deliver a presentation that attempts to convince the judges its invention is unique, useful and marketable. The students will display fully functioning prototypes and present business plans for their inventions. Judges will award prizes for complete designs with functional prototypes and business plans that are likely to succeed in the real world.

The judges include UW-Madison engineering mechanics alumna Mary Baker, chair of ATA Engineering in San Diego, California, and an expert in satellite system engineering, launch and road vehicle dynamics, and shock and vibration in electronics and consumer products; Ed Gisske, a UW-Madison electrical engineering and mechanical engineering alum who owns Gisske Engineering, a company that designs and develops electrical and mechanical products for forensic analysis and testing in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin; and Jody Peterson, who earned a master of engineering in engine systems from UW-Madison and currently is lead design engineer for the Boeing 787-9 G5 coolant pump system with Hamilton Sundstrand of Rockford, Illinois.

Student presentations are open to the public and will be held at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15 in Room 1610 Engineering Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Paid parking is available in the adjacent parking ramp.

Also beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, watch the presentations live online and cast votes for the $500 Peoples' Choice Award. Do so at

Presentation schedule:

  • 2:30 p.m.—opening comments
  • 2:45 p.m.—Extended Snorkel, an underwater breathing apparatus that enables the user to remain underwater for up to 5 minutes at a time at a maximum depth of 15 feet. (Invented by Kenneth Black, Matthew Braunschweig, Justin Kenter, Mike Lucas and Alex Wehrmann.)
  • 3:10 p.m.—Green Grinder, an environmentally friendly, low cost replacement to the electric garbage disposal.  The Green Grinder is fully mechanical with a removable food waste compartment that temporarily holds organic waste to be composted. (Invented by Harrison Gindlin, Noah Hurst, Courtney McCool, Vanessa Peterson and Eric Wedul.)
  • 3:35 p.m.—MAX Pallet Jack, a pallet jack that allows users to move pallets with greater mobility, and keeps the functionality of a traditional pallet jack.  Users can move a pallet laterally, rotate it, or move it like a traditional pallet jack. (Invented by Nathan Wong, Paul Pezzi, Jamin Seippel, Joseph Elmquist and Zach Cheplak.)
  • 4 p.m.—Mowercycle, a pedal-powered riding lawnmower.  This lawnmower will be completely human powered, eliminating the cost and environmental impact of fuel, while maintaining the speed benefits of a traditional riding lawnmower. (Invented by Derek Becker, Collin Bezrouk, Tyler Van Fossen, Dan Rohe and Max Stein.)
  • 4:25 p.m.—Break
  • 4:40 p.m.—SAW Wheel, a wheelchair attachment that provides an increase in traction on snow or ice.  This is done using an expandable second wheel with an aggressive tread and inlayed studs. (Invented by Nathan Cholewa, Jamie Hood, Craig Bolyard, Jameel Moore and Kevin Weiss.)
  • 5:05 p.m.—Easy Open, an adaptive device that provides powered operation for residential sliding style windows.  For customers with disabilities, it will be a cost-efficient method for sustaining independence in their own homes. (Invented by Karim Abrouq, Matt Ekiss, Sunghoon Joo and Sarah Merline.)
  • 5:30 p.m.—DeceleBrake, a longboard braking system that is completely contained within the truck housing. The brake is activated by the rider using a back-hinged footpad. Friction from two separate braking pads is applied to braking discs that are fixed to the axles. (Invented by Wes Hill, Zach LaPorte, Brandon Deaner and Josh Niedfeldt.) 

Renee Meiller