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Discovery Newsletter

Volume 11Discovery NewsletterIssue 6Discovery NewsletterFebruary 2001Discovery NewsletterMontana State University-Bozeman

Main Page On the Web Patents Corner Featured Stories


Pop Bottling Machine Wins
National Award for Engineering Students


by Evelyn Boswell

Pop Bottle Ever dream of your personal pop bottling machine, one that fills a liter bottle and delivers it to you?

Kevin Amende, Dustin Cram and David Story did, and they can show you how it works in less than three minutes.

During the first two minutes, the Montana State University- Bozeman students set up the 35-pound machine they made out of typewriter parts, printer pieces and a computer hard drive. It has five motors, each run by a AA battery. Then they push what used to be a shutter release for a camera. In the next 26 seconds, the machine grabs a one-liter pop bottle that's lying on its side, pulls it one meter up a ramp, sets it upright, fills it with water and caps it.

"It was really a lot of work and a lot of failures. Each part of it was designed several times," said Cram who figured the team spilled several gallons of water in his basement while attempting to invent a machine they could enter in the annual design contest sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

But the students--all majoring in mechanical engineering technology (MET)--finally got it right. Besides winning second place and $1,000 in the international competition for 2000, they won $500 for the ASME/MET Club at MSU. They also created a tool they could use to inspire underclassmen who are still studying mechanical theories. And they found the invention to be a good selling point for the local ASME/MET Club. Amende, a senior from Sheridan, Wyo., is president. Story, a senior from Corvallis, Mont., is vice president. Cram, a junior from Cody, Wyo., is a member.

"We have demonstrated it (the machine) to a lot of the beginning engineering classes," Amende said.

The idea for a pop bottling machine came from the ASME, which sponsors an international design competition every year, Amende continued. One year, the organization called for students to make a remote-controlled car that could maneuver through an obstacle course, pick up a rock and return to the beginning. Another MSU team took first place in that contest. For 2001, the ASME asked competitors to design a sip-and-puff fishing pole for people with disabilities.

"After reviewing the criteria on their web site, we decided we would go and attempt it," Amende said of the pop bottling project.

The MSU students basically worked from January through April last year to create the machine they entered in the Region 8 contest. Then they spent the rest of the year modifying their machine before the international competition in November. The new machine allowed them to shave more than a minute off their regional time.

Speed is a key factor in winning, but other elements include the time it takes to set up the machine, the time it takes to run the bottling operation, the amount of water that makes it into the bottle, and capping, Amende said. Accuracy in placing the bottle on a target area is extra.

Another MSU team is now working on its entry for the 2001 contest, but the pop bottling team said their experience will continue to benefit them.

"Employers like to see students involved in other activities that kind of expand their horizons," said Story who plans to enter the work force after graduation. "It was a great opportunity."

Evelyn Boswell is the technical writer for the Office of Research, Creativity and Technology Transfer.

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