Spinning vinyl: Wilkes University hosts Engineering Olympics

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
Wilkes student Brian Dwyer helps Pittston Area’s Allison Lecitshon and Megan Small at the Wilkes University Engineering Olympics on Friday morning. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Nanticoke Area High School students Noah Krubitzer and Garrett Dzugan attempt to make a car with a mousetrap and other random items at the Engineering Olympics at Wilkes University on Friday morning. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

They’ve got straws, compact discs, little brass eyehooks, cardboard, a rubber band, a mousetrap, and about two hours to turn it into little, self-powered car.

What’s the plan?

“We don’t have one,” Jenay Zelinka admitted with a smile.

“We’re winging it,”Kaede Goodeliunas agreed, “but we’re winging it in the best way.”

The two were part of a 10-student team brought from Meyers High School to the Wilkes University Engineering Olympics on Friday. Ten area high schools brought up to 10 students vying for scholarships to Wilkes should they enroll there after graduation. The 10 split into five two-person teams, each taking on a challenge they didn’t know about until they arrived at the Arnaud C. Marts Sports and Conference Center.

“We picked this one,” Kaede said with a smile. “We thought it would be the coolest.”

Well, yeah, at least as far as visuals go. Students figuring out how to filter dirty water, build an electronic circuit maze, design an LED six-sided die, or design and build a prototype trash scow may be challenging, but none of that has the excitement of a cardboard car on CD wheels careening down the gym floor.

Well, most of them used CDs, primarily because of weight. “We want it to be as light as possible,” Jenay said of the grand non-plan for their car. Thus the four eyehooks screwed into the bottom of a cardboard rectangle, with two plastic straws slipped through two hooks front and back and the CDs glued to the straws.

A few tables down, Wyoming Seminary juniors Jake Stefanowicz and Cameron Shedlock had opted for vinyl, 45 rpm single records. Wait. Do these teens even know what those black discs are? After all, music CDs are already passe.

“Yeah, we know about them,” both agreed. Heck, they’ve even heard them played on an old phonograph. “Sometimes,” Cameron said, “when I visit my grandfather.”

The pair opted for vinyl because, yes, they are heavier than CDs, but they are thicker and thus more stable, Cameron said. The same logic drove the decision to use wooden dowels instead of straws for axles. They were also looking to extend the snapping part of the mousetrap so that when it sprung, it would be able to pull more string to make the car go.

And they started concocting ways to make a pulley, further extending the amount of string they could coil around an axle to propel the vehicle. Gluing a smaller CD between two vinyl records was the first notion, abandoned because the car would be getting too heavy.

“We’d have a car with 1,000 pounds of torque an 0.1 horsepower,” Cameron laughed.

“It’d be slow, but would run all week” Jake theorized.

Wilkes student Brian Dwyer helps Pittston Area’s Allison Lecitshon and Megan Small at the Wilkes University Engineering Olympics on Friday morning.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041418engineer2.jpgWilkes student Brian Dwyer helps Pittston Area’s Allison Lecitshon and Megan Small at the Wilkes University Engineering Olympics on Friday morning. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Nanticoke Area High School students Noah Krubitzer and Garrett Dzugan attempt to make a car with a mousetrap and other random items at the Engineering Olympics at Wilkes University on Friday morning.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041418engineer1.jpgNanticoke Area High School students Noah Krubitzer and Garrett Dzugan attempt to make a car with a mousetrap and other random items at the Engineering Olympics at Wilkes University on Friday morning. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish