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Mechanical Engineering

“Candy Rocket” Earns AML Students Kudos

“Candy Rocket” Earns AML Students Kudos

AML team members, from left: Sam Chiappone, Dan Walczyk, Christina Laskowski, Larry Ruff,
and Steve Derby.
A team of Rensselaer students took second place in October at the 2008 ASME Student Manufacturing Competition for their method to produce and assemble rocket-shaped candy dispensers.

Intended to be fun and inexpensive toys or corporate promotional giveaways, the colorful dispensers use gravity to propel small candies such as M&M’s or Skittles down a spiral path within the base of the rocket, before jettisoning the treat through a nozzle.

Results of the competition, which is sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), were announced at the organization’s 2008 ASME International Conference on Manufacturing Science and Engineering in Chicago.

The award-winning project grew out of an assignment in the School of Engineering course Advanced Manufacturing Lab (AML). As part of the class, teams of students were given conceptual product designs from the Product Design and Innovation studio class at Rensselaer, and asked to devise the best way of manufacturing the item. The second part of the project was to employ this manufacturing method—everything from buying components and devising quality control oversight to producing, tooling, and programming robots—and demonstrate that it could work. The team had six months and $3,000 to make it happen.

Under the guidance of AML professors Dan Walczyk and Steve Derby, as well as course manager Sam Chiappone and systems engineer Larry Ruff, the candy rocket team produced more than 600 of the dispensers, which each stand more than 10 inches tall and are made up of nine individual components. The nozzle, dispenser, and helix are injection-molded while the remaining parts are vacuum-formed, laser-cut, or cut with an abrasive waterjet. The team designed a system of robotics and fixed automation to assemble all of these components into finished candy rockets.

Christina Laskowski, a member of the team, traveled to the ASME conference to present and demonstrate the group’s finalized manufacturing system.

“AML was definitely one of the highlights of my RPI career,” Laskowski says. “It was incredibly rewarding to see our designs and systems come to life through the class, and very fulfilling to represent RPI at the conference against such stiff competition. This has been a tremendous experience—and a lot of fun, too!”

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.