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Climbing Rope Damage Detector Wins Jackson Award

Nov 29, 2021   |   by Julie Bonette

A team of Dartmouth undergraduates who designed and built a device that checks ropes for internal damage won Fall term's Phillip R. Jackson Award for best overall performance in ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering.

The winning team — Emma Kallman '22, Mia Giallorenzi '23, Emily Lukas '23, and Ella Marden '23 — worked together along with their TA Gretchen Carpenter '23, as well as several MShop instructors.

Team Core Check
Members of team Core Check at the ENGS 21 project demos event.

Their invention, "Core Check," detects damage inside the core of climbing ropes that would deem them unsafe to use. Users slide a rope through the device and watch for any catching, stopping, or skipping, which can indicate the rope is internally damaged or "core-shot." This, together with additional signs of wear such as fraying or fuzziness, visible core fibers, sheath discoloration, and dirt and debris, helps users decide if a rope should be retired.

The students believe their invention would be especially helpful for rock climbers who rely on ropes to keep them safe. The current method of checking for rope damage takes a significant amount of time, and the typical user will often rush the job or skip it altogether. In fact, 88 percent of users surveyed by the team admitted they should be checking their ropes more frequently.

After designing their final prototype, the team found that 100 percent of users were able to catch core shots in a test section of rope at a fraction of the time associated with the standard method.

"Team Core Check created many prototypes over the course of the term, finally settling on a simple but elegant prototype that consistently detects internal damage in climbing ropes. They came up with a creative way to assess the accuracy of their device and solicited and incorporated user feedback throughout the term."

Professor Vicki May

The Jackson Award is based on the following criteria:

• Societal importance of the selected problem
• User-centered design considerations
• Sophistication of the design and degree of difficulty
• Functionality and testing of the prototype
• Holistic approach to the engineering design process
• Consistent outstanding performance on both written and oral milestones

Jackson was a former member of Thayer's Board of Advisors.

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