CORVALLIS - Engineering students in a unique class at Oregon State University are helping to address the global problem of unexploded land mines by designing a range of devices that can mechanically retrieve six simulated mines from a minefield and place them into a controlled receiving area within three minutes.

Land mines are a lethal byproduct of wars and military conflicts, which have left a plethora of unexploded anti-personnel land mines in locations like Afghanistan, Iraq and some 70 other countries around the world. Detecting and safely disarming these mines, which each year kill or mutilate an estimated 26,000 people - 8,000 of whom are children - is an ongoing and costly global challenge.

On Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in Milam Auditorium on the OSU campus, the student engineers will compete against one another as they showcase their innovative designs before a panel of judges. The event is free and open to the public.

The winning design team will take its land mine-clearing prototype on to the national design competition.

"We have some very unique designs, so this should be an interesting evening," said Ping "Christine" Ge, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at OSU.

The OSU mechanical engineering class is built around an annual design contest sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. The ASME specifies a design problem, and challenges students to find a solution within a list of parameters.

"We are the only engineering program we know of that creates an entire design class around the ASME challenge," Ge said. "This class gives our students a wonderful opportunity to apply engineering theory to a real-life problem. And in this case, the results have the potential to save lives."

Fully assembled, each battery-powered device must fit inside a box approximately one cubic foot in size and be controlled by a single umbilical cord used to transmit commands from a controller. The devices must negotiate a simulated minefield that is approximately 50 square feet in size and includes barriers up to seven inches tall that the devices must scale in order to retrieve all six simulated mines.

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Ping "Christine" Ge, 541-737-7713