EE 491 - Senior Design
SYS 491 - Senior Design

ME 492 - Senior Mechanical Engineering Design Project
Winter 2014

Last updated: January 13, 2014

Winter 2014 Design Project Description:

For the Winter 2014 semester, we will sort Skittles® candies by color, with the goal to sort them perfectly in the fastest time possible.

The competition will consist of each group placing their sorting device in position behind 5-8 clear plastic or glass containers (to be supplied, details to be provided later). At least one large bag of Original Skittles® (consisting of purple, yellow, green, orange, and red candies; additional colors from other variations may be added) will be poured into a hopper at the top of the device. Upon loading, a visible digital timer will begin counting (to the tenth of a second) as the candies are sorted and deposited into the containers. Above each container, a separate counter will display the number of candies currently in that container. As the last piece is sorted and deposited, the timer will stop and display the elapsed time, and the container counters will display the number of candies of each color.

The colors are to be sorted in the order they are found, that is, the first color goes into the first container, the second color into the second, etc. There will not be a designated container for red, another for yellow, etc. Your device must be able to sort from 5-8 colors. The number of colors, and the number of candies of each color, will be determined on the competition day. The candies must not be damaged or altered during sorting.

The competition score will be the total time in seconds, plus 1 second for any improperly sorted candy piece plus 1 second for incorrect color counts, multiplied by the total cost of the sorting device. For example, a single yellow piece in the mostly green container will result in a penalty of 3 seconds - one for the yellow candy in the green container, one each for the incorrect counts of yellow and green. Each group will be allowed to take up to three attempts at sorting, the best score will be used to determine the competition standings. Sorting runs that result in one or more containers that cannot be determined to be "mostly" one color, in the judgement of the instructors, will be disqualified.

To get you started, fast, inexpensive color detection can be accomplished through many means, examples are in this YouTube video or through the use of the TAOS Color light-to-frequency converter. Skittles® are hard and nearly the same size, so it should not be difficult to move them quickly. However, it is not clear that simple gravity feeds will be fast enough, so you might want to consider moving them along with (soft) paddles or even puffs of air.

Competition: On Thursday April 17, 2014 (the last day of classes for Senior Design) a competition will be held for all of the design groups, beginning at 10 am, in 187 SEB. Each team will attempt to sort the same number of candies up to three times, the attempt with the lowest score will be used to determine the competition standings. The score for each run will be the time, including penalties, multiplied by the cost of the device.

The colors used in the competition will be limited to those found in Original Fruit Skittles® and Skittles Dessert®, both available locally at Walmart and Target stores.

Sorting containers
Eight plastic bins for sorting were obtained at a Dollar Tree store in Livonia, MI on January 12, 2014. They are the SureFresh reusable dry food container and lid, 11.9 cups, 95 fl oz, 2810 ml, #186725, imported by Greenbriar Intl, Inc., with the following dimensions:

Height: 7" (18 cm)
Width: 3-5/8" (9.3 cm) inside, 4.25" (11 cm) outside including lid lip
Depth: 7-7/8" (20 cm) inside, 8.25" (21 cm) outside including lid lip
The top corners have an inside radius of about 3/4" (2 cm)
Base dimensions: 3.25" (8.2 cm) x 7.25" (18.5 cm)

The 8 containers will be placed side-by-side to make a target area that is approximately 34" (88 cm) wide and 8.25" (21 cm) deep.