Student engineers participate in competition



Stephen Vitabile

The College of Engineering hosted its annual Engineering Design Project Competition on Friday in Jake Nevin Field House.

This is the fourth year that students in the first-year engineering course presented their projects at the competition.

Students were randomly grouped into teams of seven or eight at the beginning of the semester and were asked to design a car and a bridge using only materials provided by the College of Engineering. The students were given popsicle sticks to build the bridge and a Lego Mindstorms kit for the car, minus some “significant” pieces.

The cars were powered by batteries the students constructed with copper, magnesium and lemon juice.

A panel of engineers served as judges for the competition and graded the students on their performance in four different categories.

First, the students’ cars and bridges were judged on the basis of aesthetics. Next, each team’s car was timed on its completion of a course, which included crossing their bridge. Then, each team’s car was tested for the amount of torque it could produce. And, finally, the bridges were tested to see how much weight they could hold by suspending a bucket full of weights from the middle of each.

The team that won any one of the four specific events received an A for the project, which accounts for a significant amount of each student’s semester grade. A team will also be named the overall winner based on the total number of points accumulated in each of the events.

The winners of the competition and each of the events will be announced before semester break.

The project incorporated all the disciplines of engineering in an attempt to introduce the class of mostly freshmen to each of them. It also provided experience working in a team, a task that all engineers have to take on at some point in their future careers.

“It teaches [the students] to work as a team and delegate responsibility,” said Howard Fulmer, one of the instructors for the course. “The competition lets the students have some fun at the end of the semester while tying together all the different engineering concepts.”

“I enjoy being part of the competition because I get to interact with the students, even the one who might not have been in my sections for the course,” Fulmer said. “I get to meet all the teams and hear what they have to report on the project.”

The competition is coordinated by a collaboration of professors and engineers in the College of Engineering, specifically the instructors of the Introduction to Engineering course – Professors Fulmer, John Wolf and William Koffke – and Dr. Randy Weinstein, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Many of the teams got into the competition by dressing up,.Teams coordinated their attire with a theme related to their team’s name – each team was assigned a car brand as a team name – or a theme they developed themselves.

For example, students made T-shirts personalized with their team name, dressed up as characters from the Mario Party video games, adorned black shirts and bandanas and made coordinated costumes of a hotdog and condiment dispensers in hopes of winning points for aesthesics and just for fun.

Students said they liked that they were able to have some fun with the competition by dressing up and seeing everyone else having fun.

Freshman Mike Ordman of Team Volkswagen and the rest of his team adorned homemade tie-dyed T-shirts with the Volkswagen emblem imprinted on the back to go along with their “VW hippie van” theme.

“I had a great time today,” Ordman said. “It was nice to see everyone come out and have a good time after all their hard work. It was a blast putting a theme together, too.”

Andrew Robinson, freshman leader of Team Suzuki, said that the project wasn’t all fun.

“Working on the project was definitely challenging,” Robinson said. “But working with the team was fun.”