Stout student enters design competition, surprised by the results

By Derek Woellner —

What started as a project for class evolved into a tale of triumph for one University of Wisconsin–Stout student.

Last spring, Murphy Alexander, a senior in the Industrial Design program, entered the North American Interzinc Student Design Competition (NAISDC) with his design, the Nifty Lift. He created the Nifty Lift design for his ID 4 Design for Manufacture class, which required him to enter a design competition.

The annual competition offers a $2,000 prize to the top three students, as well as $1,000 for the students’ school. Open to undergraduates in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the contest challenges students to design a device made out of zinc. The purpose of the device changes from year to year; in this case the goal was to create a zinc lifting device.

“I thought that would be a fun challenge and not many kids in our class entered that one,” explained Alexander. “I kind of went that route just because not a lot of people were doing it.”

Many of his classmates entered competitions for other materials such as plastic. Zinc offers many advantages over other materials, and Alexander had to research its properties to determine what applications it could be used best for. Due to zinc’s corrosion resistance, he thought that it would do well outside in an industrial setting.

“I wanted to do something for construction … but it turned into more of an everyday [thing],” said Alexander.

The Nifty Lift consists of 14 pieces, five of which are unique. Using fewer unique parts lowers manufacturing expenses. The device operates by pulling the handle, which in turn closes the sides and grips the object being lifted.

It wasn’t until this September that Alexander found out the results of the competition, but his summer-long wait ended with great news; the Nifty Lift had won.

“I didn’t expect to win, but I was looking forward to if I did,” remarked Alexander.  He had his doubts whether he could win because the competition is open to engineers.

“When it started I didn’t know what to do but I think having that challenge of it being more engineering was fun,” Alexander says. He currently has his prize money tucked away in a savings account, a wise move for a college student.

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