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Engineering Prowess to ‘Spare’ at Alumni Cup

Students Roll With Bowling Theme at Annual Rube Goldberg Contest

By Rebecca Moon Ruark

Alumni cup winners hold trophy

Department of Aerospace Engineering team co-captains Akemi Takeuchi ’26 (left) and Kruti Bhingradiya ’24 take turns posing with the Alumni Cup trophy. The winning team is commemorated on the trophy displayed in the west lobby of Glenn L. Martin Hall.

Photos by Dylan Singleton

From a “Bowlar System” space-themed invention to an “arcade of the body” to a machine detailing the whiskey distillation process, the 13th annual Alumni Cup competition at the A. James Clark School of Engineering featured wacky and bizarre contraptions powered by some out-of-this-world engineering skill.

As they do every year, undergraduates in the University of Maryland competition spent exponentially more time building, prepping and repairing their entries than actually running them for the judges Friday afternoon in the rotunda of the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building while students, faculty and staff cheered their favorites from from the balconies above.

“Troubleshooting is the toughest part of the challenge,” said Austin Appiah ’27, a first-time competitor for the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s team. “I learned determination and perseverance, for sure.”

In this year’s challenge, teams from Maryland Engineering’s eight academic departments had to create a Rube Goldberg-inspired machine with at least 20 steps that could knock down 10 small bowling pins, all within 90 seconds.

Each team incorporated aspects of its discipline into the challenge: The bioengineering team knocked coronavirus-decorated pins; the civil engineering team bowled over “deforestation,” “traffic” and “pollution” pins. More than one group featured Kermit the Frog-themed pins, a nod to Muppets creator and UMD alum Jim Henson ’60.

The winning team from aerospace engineering featured a mini lunar rover, Mars helicopter and rocket that launched a photo of Jeanette Epps M.S. ’94, Ph.D. ’00 to the machine’s version International Space Station; a NASA astronaut, Epps is set to blast off for a mission on the real ISS as early as March 1. New this year was a People’s Choice Award, won by chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Bioengineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering took second and third place, respectively, in the competition sponsored by the Engineering Alumni Network.

“I’ve been doing Alumni Cup since freshman year, when I met most of my friends,” said aerospace engineering team captain Kruti Bhingradiya ’24. “We won that year, too, and now I’m doing this with new students coming in. It’s a whole cycle.”

Scroll down to get a closer look at the competition.

team shows off their rube goldberg machine

During the competition, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering major Nate Jacobs ’24 points out the features of his team’s “Saving SimCity” machine that simulates infrastructure disasters, such as a dam break, and engineering solutions, such as wastewater treatment.

two students laugh looking at their rube goldberg machine

Department of Mechanical Engineering team presenter Ryan "Ric" Colvin '27 (left) and teammate William Dickstein ’24 get a laugh out of their roller coaster-themed machine’s highs and lows.

Several team members help explain a complicated machine

Department of Fire Protection Engineering team presenter Aaron Coufal ’24 explains its Mario Brothers-inspired contraption, including a fire-breathing Bowser and a sprinkler system.

a student excitedly shouts an explanation of a strange machine

Department of Aerospace Engineering team presenter JJ Kuznetsov ’25 explains the team’s winning “Bolar System” space-themed contraption, which included a mini rocket, lunar rover and Mars helicopter, while co-captains Kruti Bhingradiya ’24 and Akemi Takeuchi ’26 (right) look on.

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