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Case engineering grads get an 'A' on their senior project - and a place for it at Jacobs Field

rollerball

Contrary to popular belief, engineers do like sports - especially three recent graduates of Case Western Reserve University. And they showed their common love of baseball by dedicating their joint senior project to the sport and particularly to the Cleveland Indians.

Blake Driscoll, Bill Wright and Gabriel Wood, who just received their bachelor's degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the Case School of Engineering last Sunday, are avid baseball fans who didn't want to do your average, run-of-the-mill senior engineering project. Instead, they created a one-of-a-kind rolling ball sculpture that not only is a near-exact replica of Jacobs Field and its scoreboard, but also has a group of fans doing "The Wave" on it and plays the first verse of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

If you've ever played the game "Mouse Trap" as a young child, then you'll know what a rolling ball sculpture is. If not, then you'll just have to check out the sculpture, which is now on display at Jacobs Field through the end of the season.

The students - now graduates who are about to start jobs in the "real world" - spent 600 man hours building the sculpture by hand and by the use of computer-aided design (CAD) tools. They said that not only did they want to gain a substantial amount of knowledge as they built the sculpture, but they also wanted to have some fun.

"It was fun to build and it's entertaining to watch," said Wright, 23, a longtime Indians fan from Chesterland and West Geauga High School graduate who will begin his career as an engineer at General Electric's Nela Park in June. "Creating the sculpture helped us gain even more of an appreciation for engineering and manufacturing. It was fun getting down to the nitty gritty and using our hands."

Located adjacent to the Little Tikes play area behind right field, the rolling ball sculpture uses steel marbles, or "steelies," that travel around miniature rollercoaster-like tracks powered by a motor located underneath the "field." The motor is connected to a bicycle chain used to lift the steelies around the sculpture at six revolutions-per-minute (RPMs), sending them into a mini blimp that hangs high above the stadium.

Directional tracks inside the blimp determine which activities the rolling balls will trigger and which path they will take - either down a hill to the pitcher's mound and backstop; around a corner to the "fans" seated in the stadium who do "The Wave" as the marble passes underneath and then on to the xylophone-style musical keys that play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"; or along a path to a child's tricycle wheel. As the marble passes through six mini-Louisville slugger bats to get to the wheel, the baseball card of Indians' pitching ace C.C. Sabathia - pinned to the wheel by a clothespin - flip-flops in the spokes.

In addition, Driscoll, Wright and Wood lined a portion of the bottom of the sculpture floor with the baseball cards of such past and present Indians luminaries as Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Hargrove (as a player), Andre Thornton, Joe Charbonneau, "Joey" Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Cory Snyder, Charles Nagy, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner.

"We wanted to include Eddie Murray and Orel Hershiser's cards, but we couldn't find them anywhere," Wright said.

Wood, 23, of Louisville, Ky., who grew up worshipping the Cincinnati Reds, also showed his musical talents by cutting the xylophone keys to specifications and tuning them to a perfect pitch. "I cut the xylophone keys to length and found the points where the vibrations resonated to the notes F, F, D, C, C, A and G," he said. "Those are the notes that make up the first verse of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'" Wood also provided the miniature bats, which he obtained from the Louisville Slugger Museum in his hometown.

Financial support for the project was provided by the Case Athletic Department in conjunction with their partnership with the Cleveland Indians. Working with Malcolm Cooke, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Case and mechanical engineering shop supervisor Jim Drake, the students were a hit at their presentation.

"We got an 'A' on the project," boasted Driscoll, 23, of Voorhees, N.J., a childhood Philadelphia Phillies fan who adopted the Indians as his second-favorite team during his years at Case. He'll get a lot of chances to cheer on the Tribe since he recently accepted a systems analyst job at Deloitte Consulting in Cleveland. He starts his new job July 11.

"Not only did we gain a larger appreciation of building something with our own hands, but we also gained a lot of respect for each other and learned to work better as a team," Driscoll said.

Sounds just like how baseball should be played.

 

About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.