We spent two hours last night destroying what many of us spent many hours building for Engineering Competition #2 – Tower Building

As was the case last year, the winner was the event host, Michael (aka ‘Mary’, see comment in this post).  Several of us have agreed that there should be a new category for Michael - the Professional Division.  As in the bridge competition, he showed how iteration, testing, and better tools (his father owns a machine shop - how fair is that!) produce the best results when doing a project with lots of new discovery.

I was quite pleased with the results of my tower, Little Giant.  Because it was by far the lightest tower in the competition, it finished a very respectable 4th place.  Thinking back to my design process, making a light bridge was never a goal.  So I was surprised by the fact that the next lightest bridge weighed almost 40% more than mine (20.3 grams vs. 14.8 grams).  However, I did have a goal to build the simplest tower that would hold a reasonable amount of weight.  Yes, agile principles do lead you to good design choices!

Here are the results of the competition.  The Ratio is the ratio of weight held in pounds to the weight of the tower in grams.  Since this was an event with a strong focus on participation, I have identified an ‘award’ for each of the towers in the competition.

1. The Spine:    Ratio = 5.20, Overall Winner
2. Boshnya:    Ratio = 4.16, Best Design
3. Tricerotop:    Ratio = 2.57, Most Efficient Design (built in one night, good enough for 3rd place!)
4. Little Giant:   Ratio = 2.50, Featherweight Award (lightest tower)
5. The Tower of Doom:  Ratio = 1.55, Scariest Name Award
6. Le Tour Fargeaux:   Ratio = 1.36, Sleekest Design
7. Surely:   Ratio = 1.32, The Contrast Award (given for the tower with the largest difference between the bottom and top)
8. A Loose Tooth Pick Ratio = 1.27, Reference Award (the tower most like the reference tower)
9. Ilean:   Ratio = 1.25, Beefcake Award (heaviest tower)
10. The Frankin Tower: Ratio = 1.14, Coolest Destruction Award
11. Chenmi  Ratio = 0.91, Most Complex Design
12. Derrick  Ratio = 0.67, Participation Award (what else can I say about a tower that didn’t meet the core size requirement, was 2nd heaviest, held the least amount of weight, and broke before I got a picture of it!  Next time, we suggest letting the glue dry before the competition…)

As you can see from the picture album , the different designs are pretty interesting.  Given the same materials, the same requirements, and the same manpower, all of us came up with some very different approaches.  As someone noted at the competition, it’s no wonder we don’t always agree on design approaches for solving software problems.

It was a fun night overall.  Thanks to Michael for putting the event together!