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"Kick Butt" contest on Nov. 20

Teams face off as part of the Great American Smokeout

Student contest combines engineering, creativity and humor

What: Two MIT teams will present a deliberately over-engineered mechanical apparatus that performs the simple task of extinguishing a cigarette in an extremely indirect and convoluted fashion.

When: Thursday, November 20, 12 noon
Where: E23/E25 atrium

Two student teams—the Wile E. Coyotes and Cig-ARRETE—will face off at high noon on November 20 in the E23/E25 atrium in a showdown to determine the best cigarette-extinguishing apparatus in this year’s MIT observance of the Great American Smokeout. The competition is sponsored by MIT Medical.

Each team in the “Kick Butt” contest has designed a deliberately over-engineered mechanical apparatus that performs the simple task of extinguishing a cigarette in an extremely indirect and convoluted fashion. In Great Britain, such a contraption might be called a “Heath Robinson machine,” taking its name from the British cartoonist who was famous for his drawings of outrageously improbable contraptions. In the U.S., such machines are commonly referred to by the name of an American cartoonist known for his drawings of similarly comic inventions (his name, now a registered trademark, we dare not mention).

Such devices typically involve chain reactions using common materials such as dominoes, marbles, springs, and balloons. The Wile E. Coyotes and Cig-ARRETE are keeping their designs under wraps until the day of the contest. Judges, including noted contraption-maker Arthur Ganson (the MIT Museum’s ongoing exhibition “Gestural Engineering,” showcases his mechanical sculptures), will tally up scores based on criteria such as complexity and creativity to decide which team kicks the most ash and takes home a cash prize of $750 when they compete on Nov. 20.

During the event, staff members from MIT Medical’s Center for Health Promotion and Wellness will be handing out free “quit kits” and information about MIT Medical’s quit-smoking services, available for free to any member of the Institute community to help stub out even the most stubborn smoking habits.

The contest is 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 has been donated by Signazon.com. Signazon.com, based in Dallas and Boston, helps non-profit organizations and businesses create oversized checks and full-color banners.

*This news story has not been updated since the date shown. Information contained in this story may be outdated. For current information about MIT Medical’s services, please see relevant areas of the MIT Medical website.

Contest questions?

Send an email to smokeout-questions@mit.edu.