I’m a writer and I cover sports because math and science are completely over my head. In spite of (or maybe because of) those facts, I was asked to serve as one of the judges for Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering Cowbell Challenge. This competition wasn’t about making a great cowbell, but making a great cowbell ring. Without hands.
A project best left to the minds of student engineers who had to accomplish the required task of creating a machine that can “ring a standard size cowbell [10” or 11”] using a 12-volt car battery or any other battery smaller in size and voltage automatically and continuously for at least 15 seconds.”
The judging was done based on that criteria, as well as creativity, use of space (must fit inside but take up most of a 3x3x3 area) and aesthetics. Joining me as an athletic representative in the judging group was MSU softball coach Vann Stuedeman, who provided moral support when it sounded like the engineers were speaking in tongues as they explained their machines and processes.
I’ve got pictures and explanations below, and there’s a video of a few of the six contraptions you can see here, courtesy of new media relations superstar Andrew Piper.
Apparatus No. 1 was the overall winner, though there were no losers in my book. Especially not when I’ve been made to feel sophomoric by, well, sophomores. I regret I am unable to provide better descriptions of how these things were built, but the most complicated thing my mind can break down is a 3-4 vs 4-3 defense.
Anyway, here are the devices in the order in which they were demonstrated, all designed and built by students from the various engineering departments on campus.
Students: Neil Pierce; Timothy Wilson; Kristian Harvey
Words I Heard: Uses a 12-volt drill motor. Has a variable resistor to control voltage, meaning you can change cowbell speed. Has light-up LED lights in Bully’s eyes. Sealed bearing keeps it together. Braces on back.
Students: Hagan Walker; Lee Sargent
Words I Heard: Runs off an iPhone app they created (ringing started from phone). Activated by Wi-Fi. Uses a motor from an air compressor. Has a train and track in honor of the train tracks which used to run through campus where The Junction is now.
Students: Bradley Michael; Marco Izqueirdo
Words I Heard: Jigsaw motor. Car battery. Plays the fight song during ringing. Can charge an iPhone. Inner workings inside the box beneath the field. Dak Prescott on the other video board. “It cut into our ramen budget.”
Students: Andrew Bode; Christopher Collins
Words I Heard: Uses a window motor from a 1999 GM car. Crank-rocker linkage. “Respect the Bell” is the off position. Has cupholders. The Cowbell Ringer 3000. “If you’re trying to Hail State, this will help you do it.”
Students: Nicholas Willis; Meaghan Smith; Benjamin Eisman
Words I Heard: 8 rpm wormgear motor. Uses a wheel design with 16 teeth. Little over two rings per second. Built with the traditional style of ringing in mind. Runs off AA batteries.
Students: Zachary Collins; Nick Petras
Words I Heard: Cowbell Ringer 3001 (take that, Cowbell Ringer 3000). Design inspired by work in Robotics Club. 8-volt battery used on drones. Window battery from truck window. “You need the back and forth to get the ding and ring.”