Transformer built from MIT admissions mailing tube

mit-admissions-tube-robotIt’s not quite on the scale of [Michael Bay], but that’s probably a good thing. We do think that this robot built from a mailing tube by [Will Jack] would be right at home in a Transformers movie.

The bot starts out looking like a normal cardboard mailing tube. But the seam at the middle splits to reveal the electronics inside. An Arduino Uno drives the device, monitoring that infrared rangefinder which is facing forward. Each half of the tube acts as a wheel, pushing against the at-rest mass of the internals to create motion. It can even pull off a tank-like pivot to turn in place by spinning he halves in opposite directions.

We were intrigued to hear that the admissions department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent a single page acceptance letter in these silver tubes to those students accepted into the class of 2017. The letter invites the incoming class to hack the tube and send in their results. We’re going to have to dig through the submissions and see if there are any other noteworthy projects.


  1. Myself says:

    Oh, THAT kind of transformer. Here I was looking for the secondary windings.

  2. aleksclark says:

    Seeing the other ‘hacks’ there, starting to feel I didn’t miss out on much….

  3. Hirudinea says:

    Don’t all MIT mailing tubes do this?

  4. Ross says:
  5. MM54 says:

    Acceptance letter? I’d make it part of the application.

  6. no body says:

    what’s a coast hanger?

  7. zerobotman says:

    Meh not as good as this one

  8. rbarris says:

    MIT communicates with its students using a series of tubes ?

  9. Rusty Shackleford says:

    would be cooler if it always closed with the label properly aligned.

  10. vjois says:

    How is momentum conserved here? Without any reference solid object to hold onto while spinning the outer shell, I would expect the inner circuitry and motors to spin instead of the outer

    • eldorel says:

      friction and gravity.

      the outer shell grips with friction, and the internal components will be bottom weighted.
      When you move the weight up and to one side, the tube rotates to keep the weight on the bottom.

  11. All early admits receive these every year. I have one in my closet from ’08.

  12. GerbilMan says:

    You guys are really close on all your comments, but don’t you recognize this kid? Isn’t he the one that built the fusion reactor in his basement?

  13. GerbilMan says:
  14. satovey says:

    A small, thin bead of clear silicone around the circumference of the white end caps would provide traction without changing the appearance of the tube.

  15. shila says:

    Did anyone else notice that his name was will jack? will jack, wheel jack. XD

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