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Marble Sorter Report

Daniel Deng, Elizabeth Park, Beth Hosmer

Principles of Engineering
Westwood High School
March 29, 2016

Design Problem:
The NRPA requested our team to develop a solution to a problem in their parks.
They have a sorting facility for recyclable material, but they need a device to sort the
materials automatically.
Our team needs to design, model, and test a device that is able to separate the
Some constraints were provided that our team must follow. The separation
process must be fully automated, components must be from one VEX kit or materials
approved by instructor, it must separate commingled materials into individual bins,
marbles must be under full control during the process, recyclable materials include four
different inch material spheres totaling sixteen marbles. Marbles include steel,
aluminum, wood, opaque plastic, and clear plastic (Extra credit for five different spheres
totaling twenty marbles), and finally, the process must be no longer than two minutes.

Brainstorming Ideas:

First, the marbles are poured into the bin and lined up. The marbles are then
scanned to determine their color, and the marble separator goes side to side to allow
only one marble to be scanned. After, the rotating servo with the bins rotate so the
marble falls into correct component. (The magnet was not originally my idea, so I will
not explain it here)

Decision Matrix:

Time to

Speed to
complete task

Simplicity of

Simplicity of


Daniel Deng


Elizabeth Park


Beth Hosmer


Rated on a scale of 1 - 5 with 1 as the worst, 5 as the best.

We decided to use mainly my design with modifications to make the sorting box area
darker, and since the light sensor couldnt distinguish between the aluminum and the
steel marbles we decided to incorporate Beths magnet tester into the design. Our
criteria were chosen to determine which design would be easy to build, code, and run.
This is to ensure that we complete on time and be within the amount of time given to
run. This was rated by how many individual processes were in the design. Too many
separate processes meant more building time and more code to run.

Final Design:

First, Marbles are poured into the bin and lined up on the marble liner upper.

A rotating servo will make the marble divider move side to side, allowing only one
marble to be scanned at a time. The flashlight will allow for consistency. The servo will
then rotate to allow the next marble.
A rotating servo with cups attached will spin according to the value sensed by the
light sensor. Because some marbles are very close in light value, steel and aluminum
will not be caught in a cup and instead will roll down a separate ramp.
The steel and aluminum marble will roll to the bottom where a spinning motor
with a magnet attached will pick up steel marbles. It will hit the marble dropper and fall
into a separate component.
Design Modifications:
The first design modification we made was to solve the problem of building the
rotating magnet. We decided that it would have made the design more simple if we just
attached magnets to the bottom of the cups to catch steel ones instead. The dark box
was also very problematic to attach to the ramp. We couldnt just screw it in without it
interfering with the ramp, so we had to create three supports for it to attach. Inside the
box, we had to constantly test how the marble divider will align with the light sensor, so
spacers were constantly added and removed. We also made the marble sorter
staggered instead of straight so we wouldnt kill the servo motor by turning it very
rapidly. The next challenge was our feeding system. At first, the ramp was too wide, so
we put bushings on the side so the marbles wont double up. The ramp was also too
steep, and marbles were bouncing out, so we made it less steep.The support for the
ramp was initially two bars, which made it very unstable. We changed that to a sturdier
plate. The entire platform was also raised because we thought that there would be a
space issue, but it turns out that it wasnt necessary.

Final Design Test:

Our final test resulted in a failure because we could not get the code working. It
sorted none of the marbles correctly, but most of the marble went through the entire
process. The process was also pretty quick, completing it under thirty seconds.

RobotC Program:

Design Process:
The first step in our design process was to define the problem. In this step, we
learned about our constraints and criteria in building the marble sorter. The second step,
generate concepts, involved everyone in our team brainstorming ideas and drawing
them out in order to choose one to build. This is our third step, where we used a
decision matrix to choose the best design to build. We also drew a final design and
annotated it. The fourth step was to build and test our designs. This is the step where
we actually build the marble sorter. The fifth step involved us making improvements to
our design. We never officially reached this step due to time constraints. The last step is
to present the solution, which we did in front of the class.
Team Evaluation:
First of all, everyone on our team worked really hard and came in every time we
needed, and I appreciate that. Elizabeth primarily helped build the machine and made
many improvements on it. She came in along with Beth many times during fourth block
and in the mornings to work on our machine. She followed the group norms and did a
good job. She finished her share of the work. Beth built both the machine and wrote the
code for it. She also did well to come in whenever we needed it. Beth followed the group
norms and worked well on our machine. I also primarily worked on the machine,
particularly the separation mechanism. I came in with my group to finish and followed
the group norms. I completed my share of the work even though I was out for two


a) Our team would have started testing the code sooner because the main
problem to our unsuccessful test was because the code did not work. We would
also find more efficient and quicker ways to build our machine.
b) The most challenging aspect of this design problem was the time
constraint. If we had more time, Im sure we could have solved the problem.
c) I learned that working in a team requires dedication and loyalty to the
team, whereas before, I relied on myself too much.
d) The biggest challenge of working in a design team is expressing your
opinions so that the team will understand your ideas. Another challenge is not
letting your team down. Working alone might only result in letting yourself down,
but in a team, people need you and thats stressful.