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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 17, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 15
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Squirt, designed by Christopher Ivey (left) with John Barrett and Diana Sandy, gets ready to face off against Daphne, designed by Alex Englesbe (right) with Ian Osborne and Noel Sanjuan.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Angela Roberts

On Monday, Dec. 10, 38 freshmen gathered in the first-floor hallway of Homewood's Latrobe Hall to compete in a "Flippy Car" race. All of the students are in a class called Freshman Experiences in Mechanical Engineering, taught by associate professor Allison Okamura. The assignment teaches students how to apply fundamental mechanical engineering concepts learned in the classroom to a working project. Among these is converting potential energy to kinetic energy, in this case, using rubber bands and mousetraps. These simple household items served as the catalysts that powered and flipped shoe box–sized cars constructed of foamcore, small pieces of welding rod (for axles) and, in some cases, wheels from old toys.

The challenge was to design a car that would take off from the starting line (a strip of lime green tape on the floor); travel 10 feet before entering the four-foot "flip zone," where the car would complete a full back or forward flip; and continue on another six feet to the finish line.

After an exciting first round, quarterfinals and semifinals, two teams, the Quicker Flipper and Jerry, battled it out for first place. Jerry came soaring out of the gate, quickly surpassing the Quicker Flipper. However, once in the flip zone, Jerry ran out of energy and stopped, allowing the Quicker Flipper, built by team members Andrew Barnett, Laura Carson and Brandon Hahn, to proceed at a slow but determined pace across the finish line. The crowd, as they say, went wild.


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