Engineering a sweet solution

CMU’s Society of Women Engineers invents a candy sorter in 24-hour challenge

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

Cardboard, a color sensor, some duct tape and 24 hours: For members of the Society of Women Engineers at Central Michigan University, it was a recipe for technological innovation.

In just one day, the group of engineering students created a functional candy sorting machine at the College of Science and Engineering's third annual hackathon. The challenge brought together student organizations and individuals for innovative and collaborative competition.

In the SWE team's machine, M&M candies placed into a tube at the top of the machine are read by a color sensor. The machine deposits each candy to a corresponding color dish using code team members wrote.

"We started the project using a tutorial we found that explained a similar idea, but we quickly began to branch out from it and make it our own design," said Hannah White, junior mechanical engineering student and president of SWE. "We didn't really have anything to go off, which in the end was pretty cool."

The team spent about 14 hours creating the candy sorter and said they'd recommend the hackathon experience for all students.

When worlds collaborate

The organization chose the project because of its mix of mechanical and electrical engineering concepts. Andrea D'Amour, mechanical engineering student and vice president of SWE, said it was exciting to see the mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines working together.

"I was excited to talk with the electrical engineers about what they were doing and see how they code a sorter," she said.

For some participants, the hackathon was a chance to apply engineering concepts to a real project earlier than they would in class. And the teamwork and problem-solving required to tackle challenges as a cohesive unit offered a glimpse into future jobs.

Hackathon is a great opportunity for hands-on experience," said electrical engineering student Shannon Thompson. "It's also a way for us to build community as an organization and learn together."

Written by Anna Kendall, University Communications intern.

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