MIT students, taking 2.007 Design and Manufacturing I, showcased their final designs at a Willy Wonka-themed robot competition, according to MIT News. Both the room and people were transformed into Willy-Wonka representations. The course instructors, Sangbae Kim, who wore a purple velvet coat to reenact Willy Wonka, and Amos Winter, who dressed as golden ticket winner Charlie Bucket, were the hosts of the competition.

Thirty-two students tested their imaginations and robotic abilities as they partook in five sudden-death rounds around a Willy Wonka inspired game board. Each round students went head-to-head as their robots lifted gummy bears, pushed Gobstoppers into chocolate rivers and freed Oompa Loompas from pipes. The goal was to get the most points, despite being immersed in a surreal, colorful world.

2.007 course instructors Associate Professor Amos Winter (far left) and Associate Professor Sangbae Kim (far right) pose with the top four finalists in the robot competition. From left to right: second place Erika Mynio, first place Mason Massie, fourth place Roberto Bolli, and third place Nathaniel Huffmam. Credit: Tony Pulsone

One task required the students to put as much kinetic energy into a spinning mushroom. Ultimately, the competition was designed to familiarize students with mechanical engineering principles. In order to succeed in the competition, students had to understand robotic concepts such as traction, gripper design, sensor integration, autonomy and optimized motor power.

“Each task is specifically designed to guide students to apply fundamental mechanics knowledge to their own design executions and help them to understand the important concepts through the design process,” said Kim.

The robots all ranged in color, size and simplicity. Some were small, while others weighed nearly 12 pounds.

Originally, this event started in 1970 to give engineering students an opportunity to get a hands-on experience in designing and building. Although the themes have changed, one thing has remained the same: students can only use the materials given to them at the beginning of the semester. Kim said there are a lot of fancy mechanisms, but it all starts as a basic foundation of materials like aluminum and plastic.

The winning design was created by Mason Massie whose design encompassed two robots. One robot was an autonomous robot named “Oompa Raiser,” while the other was a large scissor-lift robot named, “Do You Even Lift, Bro?” Massie customized omnidirectional wheels to help navigate the robot throughout different tasks.

Despite having one winner, all the students walked away with “calculated imaginations,” basic mechanical engineering skills and a robot they built themselves.

John Taylor Novak, a mechanical engineering junior, navigates his robot "Red Eye" through the game board at Thursday’s competition. Credit: Tony Pulsone