Project Dormitory: K’nex Contraption

What started as a small idea and a surplus of boredom turned into one of the greatest contraptions on campus, looming in the windows of a certain third floor bedroom. This contraption, more commonly known as Project Dormitory, was conceived and built by David Tylinski ’12. As soon as Tylinski moved into his Bartlett room in September, he immediately realized that he would be able to transform his drab room into something much more. “I was looking at my windows, and I realized that I could fit four pillars on each of the corners [of my room]. The idea seemed crazy, but I called my parents and told them to bring my collection of K’nex for parents weekend, and thus the project began,” he said. Tylinksi described the mechanism as “a giant Rube Goldberg machine, meaning it does nothing useful. In a nutshell, plastic spheres are transported to the top of the machine by means of a motorized chain lift, then go down a series of interlocked paths to the bottom, and then are transported back up. It’s basically a giant circuit.” It took Tylinski only six weeks to finish his project, which quickly metamorphosed from a bony skeleton framing his windows to a sixteen-path complex piece of machinery. He said, “most of fall term, I had little to do on the weekends. Instead, I used that time to expand the structure.” Nevertheless, Tylinski spent many a sleepless night refining the details of the elaborate machine. The apparatus is structured in the shape of a C around the perimeter of Tylinski’s room. Four towers standing in their respective corners are connected by numerous beams that create the skeleton of the structure. From that, Tylinski expanded, incorporating everything from a mini windmill to motorized spirals. All these devices aid in the propelling of a single ball around the course of the circuit; they also create circuit splits so that there are a total of sixteen unique paths. Students and dorm inspectors alike were astonished by the work of machinery Tylinski was able to build. Christopher Blackwood ’12 said “I remember entering his room a while back when he had just started building it. I thought it was a cool little project he had going, but then it started to grow and grow until it was the massive monster of K’nex that it is today. We used to joke about how he must have bribed the fire inspection guy.” K’nex, the world’s “most creative construction toy,” is a popular outlet for ambitious builders like Tylinski. K’nex pieces interconnect to make a variety of different structures using different pieces and methods. Tylinski has been working with K’nex for 9 years, and he has built eleven other contraptions of equal difficulty, including one that is even larger than Project Dormitory. Project Dormitory was Tylinski’s first project that had a room constraint, but his successful completion of the machine brought about well-deserved attention to Tylinski’s room. Tylinski said, “Looking at the project from a chemist’s perspective, it’s an equilibrium reaction between two opposite towers. From a physicist’s perspective, it’s an example of ‘what goes up must come down.’ From an architect’s perspective, it’s a structure that holds itself up by gravity, friction, and triangles. From a politician’s perspective, it’s an experiment of how much one can get away with in a dorm room. From a mathematician’s perspective, it’s completely useless. And from a probability theorist’s perspective, it’s just plain hell.”