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Nothing But Net at Alumni Cup

Engineering Students Compete in Elaborate Slam Dunk Contest

By Maryland Today Staff

Students hold the Alumni Cup

Photos by John T. Consoli

Members of the team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering hoist their trophy after winning the A James Clark School of Engineering Alumni Cup on Friday. Below, aerospace engineering students celebrate a successful dunk by their machine.

In his final Alumni Cup as dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, Darryll J. Pines, newly named as UMD’s next president, took on another role—cheerleader. Microphone in hand, he called out the names of each engineering department in turn, challenging each to whoop the loudest.

On Friday, screams filled the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building atrium from spectators and teams in the Rube Goldberg-like competition, which this year saw all eight departments devise highly complex machines designed to dunk a mini basketball, but with more flair than NBA star Derrick Jones Jr.

Students cheer while watching their machine at the Alumni CupPopping balloons, plates of flaming fire, rolling marbles, falling dominoes, whirling fans, spinning robots and falling computer heatsinks were just a few of the required 20 energy transfers that teams employed in their contraptions.

“There are some bugs, yep,” acknowledged electrical and computer engineering doctoral student Daniel Xing. Part of his team’s setup, built inside a server cage and designed to evoke the fabled IT cloud, went haywire, with a chunk flying onto the floor during a pre-competition test.

Seconds later though, the machine functioned correctly, the ball dropped through the net, and Xing, participating in his third competition, and a teammate did a leaping high five.

After each team put its machine through its paces for two rounds of competition, students from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering were victorious with a "Space Jam"-themed setup. Mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering students took second and third place, respectively.

Pines, who’s been dean since before the event began in 2012 to connect students to the Clark School Alumni Network, said his final chance to oversee the competition was bittersweet, but no less fun.

“It’s always so much fun seeing how the students from the different disciplines approach the problem differently while accomplishing the same end goal,” he said.

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