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UMaine Engineering Student Kinetic Sculptures Hit the Road

Several of the top-ranked University of Maine College of Engineering student-built kinetic sculptures demonstrated this week on campus are being moved to a variety of locations throughout Maine, including the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor, to illustrate for young people the artistic and practical nature of kinetic machines and engineering.

The kinetic sculptures raise small steel balls or marbles to a level where they are released onto sloped winding, curly tracks to whirl around before popping into funnels and baskets to be corkscrewed back up to descend again, a continuous process power by small electric motors or hand cranks.

Eight student teams in the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) designed and built sculptures to compete April 25 for exhibition space in the Bangor children’s museum, the Bangor International Jetport and the Houlton Junior and Senior High School. Herb Crosby, professor of mechanical engineering technology, and Joel Anderson, an MET lecturer, say the students designing and building the kinetic machines, which resemble children’s games, are enthusiastic about the projects.

Crosby plans to take some of the more mobile creations to expositions and demonstrations throughout Maine to educate youngsters about the ingenuity and creativity underlying the field of engineering.

MET student Jeff Soreide of Bath, Maine, whose team spent as many as 2,400 hours perfecting and tweaking its design, says designing and building the machines gave students practical, hands-on engineering experiences, and help build teamwork skills, which are critical to any project involving several people.

“We had a great team,” Soreide says. “I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys.”

Student Emily West of Hanover, Mass. says it’s gratifying to see their creations being put to use.

Crosby says the idea came from a conversation with Discovery Museum Director Niles Parker and was inspired by kinetic exhibits at Boston’s Logan Airport and the Boston Museum of Science. Parker wanted something similar for young patrons of his museum and the public.

“The ideas of motion, physics, energy, etc. could all be highlighted in such a sculpture, and done so in a very attractive, fun manner that will stop people in their tracks as they walk down Main Street,” Parker said in his initial inquiry to Crosby. “I’m really thinking this could become a bit of an icon for the museum.”

The creations were end-of-semester capstone projects for the students. The children’s museum has posted a YouTube video on the machines in motion and also an
online photo presentation.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

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