Honors students engineer system to be work of art

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Eitan Cher, at center, is leading a team of honors students in developing a Grand Orrery for Andrews Hall.

Engineering honors students don’t take their extracurricular time lightly.

This year, a team of seven engineering students are designing and building a “Grand Orrery,” or mechanical representation of the solar system, to be suspended from the ceiling of the common room at Andrews Hall.

“Our goal is to produce a working system that is also a work of art,” says Eitan Cher, a senior in mechanical engineering who is managing the project.

Completed entirely on their own time and without any academic credit, the 10-foot custom orrery will be driven by 24 gears cut out of quarter-inch brass.

The orbiting speeds of each planet are accurate in relation to one another, but they are scaled up so that the motion of the planets can be enjoyed by a casual observer. Mercury will orbit the Sun in exactly one hour; the Moon will orbit the Earth in just 18.6 minutes. Pluto’s trip around the orrery, however, will take 43 days.

“After much debate, we decided to include Pluto, if only for sentimental reasons,” Cher says.

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