Final Round of the ASME Student Design Competition Draws Student Teams from Around the World

Nov. 18, 2016

Members of the team from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo prepare to demonstrate their entry at the ASME Student Design Competition Finals in Phoenix on Nov. 13. The team went on to win first prize at the event.

Twenty-one student teams from 10 countries faced off at the 2016 ASME Student Design Competition Finals, which were held earlier this week at the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Phoenix, Ariz.

Engineering students representing universities from the United States, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Turkey, Peru and China took part in the final round of this year’s competition, which asked students to design and build prototypes of a battery-powered, compact manufacturing system that could fire paper projectiles through the air. The competition’s panel of judges assessed the entries on criteria including total distance traveled by the team’s projectiles and the total measured volume of each system.

Team members from the University of Central Florida set up their entry at the SDC Finals. The team won third prize at the competition.

At the end of the daylong competition, which took place Nov. 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center, the team from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo emerged as the winners of the event, taking home the competition’s first prize: $3,000 for the members of the team, plus an additional $1,000 for the university’s ASME student section. The three-member student team from Hong Kong Polytechnic University placed second in the finals. The team received $1,000, while the team’s student section received $500. Third place went to the team from the University of Central Florida, who won a $500 prize and an additional $250 for the school’s student section.

Nelson Lin, one of the members of the team from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, described winning first prize at the SDC finals as “surreal,” adding, “We didn’t expect to place, especially in regionals. It was weird to come here and win. We were confident in our engineering skills, but we were also expecting really good competition. We competed against some really strong teams. We went for simplicity and elegance, and I think that paid off.”

Andrew Bicos (third from left), director in the Office of the CTO’s Enterprise Technology Strategy group at Boeing, with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo team members (left to right) Kota Ozawa, Nelson Lin, Eric Zhong, Max Weinstein and Kevin Marshall. Boeing sponsored the Student Design Competition.

Kevin Schmaltz, Ph.D., chair of the Student Design Competition Committee and one of the judges at the finals, was pleased with the creativity the student teams displayed with their entries. “We had a nice variety of teams,” he said. “Some of them made paper airplanes and tried to fly them. Some of them just tried to fling pieces of paper. Some wadded up the paper into a ball and made little paper cannonballs. Some did well, some didn’t do as well as they had hoped to do. We’re pleased with how the students did and we think the students were pleased with how things went.”

Dr. Schmaltz was also impressed with the number of teams from outside the United States competing at the finals this year. “There’s a wide cross-section of universities,” he said. “About half of the schools that came here were from within the U.S. and the other half were from international schools. We think that’s a wonderful thing to get that kind of international participation in these events.”

For information on the ASME Student Design Competition, including details of the 2017 SDC design challenge, visit