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Engineering Student Wins Trip to Hollywood
Graduate mechanical engineering student Anne Mahacek is headed to Los Angeles this weekend to watch a live taping of CBS’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning comedy The Big Bang Theory. She won the VIP trip after entering a contest about a comical song that’s regularly featured on the show.
“I’ve watched the show for a while now and knew with my engineering skills that I could do something successful. It seemed like a fun opportunity,” says Mahacek, a loyal fan of the sitcom.
The show centers on five characters: two CalTech physicists, Sheldon and Leonard, their attractive neighbor Penny, who’s an aspiring actress working as a waitress, and Sheldon and Leonard’s equally geeky and socially awkward friends, an aerospace engineer and an astrophysicist.
Sheldon once goaded Penny into singing “Soft Kitty,” a song sung to him when he was sick as a child. The song has become a bit of a running joke within the show.
CBS opened a contest looking for the most interesting fan performance of “Soft Kitty.” Rather than videotaping herself singing the song as many other people did, Mahacek used her engineering background as inspiration. She built a robot out of Legos, wheels, and some items lying around the house and then programmed it to recite the lyrics of “Soft Kitty,” while adhering to the formula she created for the song. The robot sings and moves along a poster board showing the formulas for each line of the lyrics. For instance, the last line of the lullaby, “Purr…purr…purr,” is represented by the equation “purr3.”
“I knew I had to do something nerdy for the video, because The Big Bang Theory often uses real science,” she says.
She said that the entire process “only took a few hours,” largely because she was already quite familiar with robotic systems since that’s what she’s currently studying at Santa Clara University.
Mahacek said that she couldn’t believe her good fortune when she was contacted by CBS. Her video has since been posted on The Big Bang Theory’s Facebook page and CBS’s website.