About the Stage Machine Design Competition

The Stage Machine Design Competition was first launched at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2005. At that time it was known as the “Midwest Machine Design Competition,” and while the intended group of participants were graduate and undergraduates studying theatre technology, the design challenges focused less on theatre-specific themes and more on robust machine challenges.

The impetus for the competition in 2005 arose from a desire to provide an opportunity for theatre students to explore the mechanical design process in a fun, hands-on way. After a brief hiatus, the Stage Machine Design Competition returned in 2019 with a new look and an expanded purpose. The fundamental goal is still the same, of course: provide students of theatre technology an opportunity to explore the mechanical design process. Beyond that, we hope the Stage Machine Design Competition can become a vehicle to ignite a passion for stage machinery and mechanical design, particularly amongst theatre undergraduate students.

The mission of the Stage Machine Design Competition comprises four major foci:

  • Encouraging good engineering design practice
  • Exploring non-traditional solutions to theatrical challenges
  • Fostering excitement about the integration of engineering and live entertainment
  • Developing collaborative relationships among peers and colleagues across the country

To serve that mission, the Stage Machine Design Competition:

  • Imagines an exciting and complex Stage Machine Design Challenge for teams to address each year
  • Hosts the annual Competition Event, bringing students together to observe and demonstrate their designs
  • Identifies industry professionals to serve as judges at the annual Competition Event
  • Provides teaching and learning materials to support faculty and students in exploring mechanical design and developing a framework for addressing the Design Challenge