Building Marble Sorters in Engineering


Alex Valdez

A marble sorter in progress

Students of Principles of Engineering have been working on and designing marble sorters in the past few weeks.

They first started by coming up with a way to sort the marbles. There were seven different types of marbles, and the groups of students had to use three different types and sort them out. The groups were able to design everything themselves with the VEX kits provided, which ended up with some pretty creative designs.

Not only did the students have to create a marble sorter, they also had to create a journal to sketch and calculate equations for the marble sorter. One thing that the journals had were sketches and images of marble sorters with explanation on the parts. They also had to create a wiring diagram for all the sensors and motors that had to be plugged into the machine. The last three sections of the journal were flow charts for the marble sorter, data tables, and calculations and, finally, reflection questions on the project.

There were many different takes on the designs for the marble sorter — some with pulleys and some with many sensors and motors.

One group with sophomores Fernando Patawaran, Chris Tsouras, and Xinhan Li just began to start building their marble sorter. With their sketches, they have everything ready. They just have to build the marble sorter and complete some calculations and testing.

Li said, “The hardest part about this assignment would probably be keeping up with your journal while building the marble sorter. You just want to build and finish it so you can test that you’re so eager and forget about completing your journal, which is worth fifty percent of the assignment.”

Patawaran said, “To me, the hardest part is building the marble sorter itself because you have multiple sketches and designs, but, after testing, everything could go different, and you would have to modify your sorter.”

Even with their marble sorter not finished, the group is still having struggles with multiple things, which shows the design process and how it affects engineers.

Tsouras said, “The marble sorter and journal are difficult, but the reason is mostly because of time, and that’s what makes this project hard. We have time to work on the marble sorter, but we also have to manage finishing two other projects with this one.”