Emmett “Doc” Brown was certainly clever: he made the world’s first time machine out of a gull-winged sports car. But he was also fictional. Thirty years after Brown’s DeLorean traveled to the past in the film Back to the Future, MIT undergraduates showcased their very real engineering skills by battling each other in “Hack to the Future,” an homage to the movies and the theme for this year’s 2.007 Robot Competition. (It’s apt timing; in the movie’s first sequel, Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to 2015, where they find that skateboards hover in the air and sneakers tie themselves.)
Last week, hundreds of spectators cheered on finalists in the robot competition, the culmination of a semester-long class in which mechanical engineering students designed, built, and tested their creations. Robots had to complete tasks involving iconic Back to the Future items like the DeLorean, a clock tower, and a flux capacitor. The winning robot, by sophomore Allison Edwards, was “very steady and reliable,” said mechanical engineering associate professor Sangbae Kim, who instructs the class with colleague Amos Winter. Kim and Winter watched the competition dressed as the films’ protagonists, Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
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