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E-Week activity exceeds expectations

Community night seeks to reach out to people through pinewood derby, educational activities

staff writer

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 00:02


Meghann Nixon photo

Observers and judges watch cars race down the track at the pinewood derby Thursday night at Engineering Community Night in the TSC Ballroom. Community night was one of the final events of Engineering Week.

Hundreds gathered in the Taggart Student Center on Thursday night for Engineering Week’s annual Community Night. 400 people were expected, but that number was well exceeded, said Taylor Bybee, president of the Engineering Council.

“This is the best turnout we’ve had in the four years we’ve done it,” he said.

The event was previously held in the engineering building, but this year the council upgraded to the larger TSC, according to Riley Bradshaw.

There were several new events for reaching out to the community.

“We looked for groups, businesses, and student projects that were able to demonstrate, kind of hands-on, what engineering is,” Bybee said.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers put on a pinewood derby competition with the help of the American Nuclear Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

There were two classes, one with standard Boy Scout rules, and an open class where anything was allowed. In the open class, cars had everything from propellers to electric motors, in all sorts of styles. There were cash prizes for the top three in each category.

The competition was open to anyone in the community, but many of the participants were USU students. According to Bruce Hoffman, the president of ASME, they had about 45 participants. This was the competition’s first year, but Hoffman said it will probably continue.

Another new competition challenged high school students to build bridges, sponsored by the Environmental Engineering Department and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Mitch Dabling, a junior in civil engineering and a member of ASCE, said the competition was an effort to get more high school students to community night.

The team of four students from Logan High School who won the bridge competition took home a $100 cash prize. Their bridge held 1,727 pounds of force before breaking.

Their teacher, Drew Neilson, encouraged all his students to come to community night and see what engineers do.

“One of the biggest comments I get is, ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’” Neilson said.

The biggest value of events like community night is how it shows students what a profession like engineering is like, Neilson said.

“It gets them thinking, ‘I might want to do that,’” he said.

Another first-time event that reached out to the community was the erosion table set up by the E-Council. The E-Council starts planning community night as soon as the school year starts, but each year they also try to have their own display to draw attention to the week. The table was set up in the engineering building Tuesday for students to enjoy during the week.

“It’s been fun to watch college students stand there and miss class to play in the sandbox,” said Riley Bradshaw, a member of the E-Council.

The Beta Bowl put on by Tau Beta Pi has been a part of community night in the past as a Jeopardy-like competition for engineering students. Rick Cressall, the president of Tau Beta Pi, said this year they wanted to involve the community, and this time, anyone was able to participate in a round to win a Chick-fil-A gift card and a cow plushie.

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