Yale Engineering Students Build Machines to Rescue Mythological Figure

With a box full of motors, pistons, springs, pieces of wood, metal, and other materials, Yale mechanical engineering students are building machines intended to rescue the mythological Persephone from the underworld.

With a box full of motors, pistons, springs, pieces of wood, metal, and other materials, Yale mechanical engineering students are building machines intended to rescue the mythological Persephone from the underworld.

“Robot Wars 2000,” an annual engineering competition to be held in the Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center on April 20, will feature about 30 students pitting their wheeled vehicles against others.

Robert Apfel, the Robert Higgin Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said the robots or machines must fit in a one-foot cube and are controlled by a joystick. They are powered by electricity or an air compressor.

The object this year is to rescue Persephone, who, in Greek mythology, was said to be kidnapped by the Lord of the Underworld, Hades. According to the myth, Hades fed Persephone pomegranate seeds, the supposed delicacy of the dead.

“The goal is to both rescue Persephone and to deliver four pomegranate seeds to special seed repositories, and to complete this mighty challenge in 40 seconds,” Apfel said. Persephone is about six inches tall and is made of balsa wood with a metal cap so that she can be lifted by a magnet.

The students are provided with the materials to construct a machine about 10 weeks before the competition. The title of the class is Mechanical Engineering Design Studio and is aimed at potential mechanical engineering majors, although several students who are not majoring in science take the course as well.

“This gives people who are not engineering majors a chance to do some real hands on stuff,” Apfel said.

The competition will begin in Davies Auditorium at 15 Prospect St., New Haven, at 5 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. A break will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for refreshments and so that students can make presentations about their machines.

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