Engineering Challenge:

Designing a Portable Drilling Rig

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Most of the drilling rigs used by US Ice Drilling Program scientists to obtain ice core samples in Antarctica are designed by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The engineers in Wisconsin design, test, and redesign new rigs until they meet all the criteria outlined by the climate scientists.  The engineers in Wisconsin then write detailed instructions on how to assemble the drilling rig, take the entire rig apart, pack it up, and ship all the parts across the world to Antarctica.  In Antarctica a different team assembles the drilling rig using the instructions and parts sent from Wisconsin.

In this activity, students complete each of the five parts described below to successfully complete the Portable Drilling Rig Engineering Challenge:

  • Part-1: Use the engineering design cycle to design a cost-effective drilling rig that can be pulled across the ice and retrieve a core barrel with an ice core sample.
  • Part-2: Create a detailed parts list and assembly instructions that another team can use to replicate their design.
  • Part-3: Pack up a parts kit with everything needed to build the drill rig using their team’s design. Another team will use the kit and instructions to build a replica of the drilling rig.
  • Part-4: Swap kits and instructions with another team. Construct the other team’s drill rig using the parts and instructions provided.
  • Part-5: Pull the assembled drill rig across a table and retrieve an “ice core.”