Stamping out Cigarettes - The MIT Way

Boston, MA (PressExposure) December 05, 2008 -- With the help of a Diet Coke/Mentos geyser and a miniature anvil, among other items, "The Wile E. Coyotes" took first place in MIT Medical's "Kick Butt" design competition on Nov. 20.

For the contest, which was held to mark the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout, each team had to build a deliberately over-engineered mechanical apparatus to perform the simple task of extinguishing a cigarette in an extremely indirect and convoluted fashion.

The four-member Wile E. Coyote team (sophomore Nate Pallo and freshmen Sebastian Denault, Simone Agha, and Tucker Chan) outscored their competitors, "Cig-ARRETE" (juniors Sadie Scheffer and Brooke Jarrett and sophomore Kari Williams), partly due to malfunctions by Cig-ARRETE's apparatus that required some intervention by team members to keep the chain reaction going.

Both teams made use of marbles, popping balloons and dominoes, though Cig-ARRETE used cigarette packs in place of standard dominoes. The Wile E. Coyotes' apparatus employed a "cellular automata array"--when a specific LED cell in the array was activated, it triggered a motor, which cut a thread, which released a spring-loaded needle, which popped a balloon, which released a string attached to a miniature red anvil, which fell on the cigarette.

Cig-ARRETE started its chain reaction when a pi?ata in the shape of a pair of lungs was "ripped apart" to release a cascade of cigarette butts. The apparatus made liberal use of duct tape as well as paper cups, string, and a handmade toy truck going down a ramp. While it ultimately lacked sufficient robustness, it nearly made up for it with three-dimensional complexity.

The devices were judged on a variety of criteria, including complexity and creativity, by noted artist/inventor Arthur Ganson, creator of the MIT Museum's ongoing exhibition "Gestural Engineering;" Hale Bradt, professor emeritus of physics; and Thomas Byrne, clinical professor of neurology in the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Ganson will also run next week's annual Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction event sponsored by the MIT Museum.

During the "Kick Butt" contest, staff members from MIT Medical's Center for Health Promotion and Wellness handed out free "quit kits" and information about MIT Medical's quit-smoking services, which are available free to any member of the Institute community. The contest was co-sponsored by the Tech Health Alliance and the MIT chapter of the American Cancer Society's Colleges Against Cancer.

A big check for the $750 contest prize was donated by, based in Dallas and Boston, helps non-profit organizations and businesses create oversized checks and full-color banners.

To find out more about MIT’s “Kick Butt” contest, please visit:

For more information on’s big checks, go to:

To learn about The Great American Smokeout/Health Challenge,



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Press Release Submitted On: December 02, 2008 at 4:57 pm
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