UAA Engineering Club Showcase highlights club projects

Engineering is all around us and leaves a nice impression when accompanied by pizza and good company.

The College of Engineering Student Club Showcase was held in the Engineering and Industry Building on Jan. 27, where attendees learned about College of Engineering clubs.

The project management department was running a trivia event, and the UAA Robotics Team showed off their VEX robots. Civil engineering had boat making and racing, and the Society of Women Engineers had an ice cream making event.

The showcase was no cost to those going, as the only thing you had to bring was your curiosity. While non-math and science people might be wary of engineering events, the department made this event family and all-majors friendly.

Pulling up into the parking lot of the Engineering and Industry Building on Friday evening, one could look up to the second floor and see action with people mingling and eating on the second floor solarium. A Wolfcard was needed to enter. The building can be its own destination, with architecture lending itself to the accomplishments of the engineering department. Competition pieces, such as mud cars and bridges, and pictures of past events are displayed where guests could admire them.

I followed my nose to the second floor of people mixing. I was greeted by the sweet smell of Moose’s Tooth pizza where Dr. Kenrick Mock, the dean of the College of Engineering, invited me to have a slice and see what was going on. He explained that the event was put on by some of the clubs to show what they did. I asked if they did any recruiting through the showcase and he smiled. “Go have fun,” he said, “enjoy yourself.”

Spoiler alert: I left wanting to change my major to engineering.

I did not expect the level of noise. I married a computer sciences person who, with his engineer buddies, earned a reputation for being quiet and studious on campus.

The Club Showcase was for having fun, and the engineers take having fun seriously. I walked down the hall and heard a lot of talking and laughing. There was a sound like a  lot of rattles being shaken. I entered, and one of the hosts welcomed me. “Do you want to make some ice cream?”  

I stood back and watched as science happened before my eyes and they explained to a group who had just come in about endothermic reactions. Salt was added to the ice which made it rapidly melt to become water, and the ice cream mixture began to freeze.

Gregory Benson, president of the Project Management Club, was at the front of the next room I went to,showing slides and playing “Guess the Project.” We were treated to images of Balto, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Edmund Hilary, to name a few.

“It’s not just steel and concrete, there is planning that goes into these projects that involve skills outside engineering,” Benson said.  

For every project that he presented, Benson had a short Q&A. Benson said that in project management, it wasn’t just engineers and people with math backgrounds. Someone had to take all the ideas and figure out how to get permission to implement projects, know what was going on and create timelines, and communicate with everyone. Project planning was everywhere, and Benson was taking his guests on a visual tour around the world to prove it.

The Robotics Team was showing off their robots and letting visitors try their hand at driving the robot.

When I first came across the Robotics Team at the VEX U remote competition, I found them serious and focused. At the showcase they were having fun, , demonstrating what the robots could do and explaining how the VEX U competition worked.

James Allan -- a UAA alumni and my husband — tried his hand at the controls of the robot they had on display and said, “It takes a lot of skill and strategy to program these things, and finesse to make them move around their playing field.”

The wettest event was in the Fluid Mechanics Lab. Adults got to be kids. There were tables that are typically used as class tables set up for guests to make origami boats, run up some steps, put them in the water and run to the other end. Usually the boats went faster than their makers. Perfectly mature adults were laughing and appeared to enjoy making the boats and racing them.

The takeaway from the Engineering Clubs Showcase is that engineering is fun. The event was an interactive treat for the senses – tied together with Moose’s Tooth pizza and laughter. The engineering department has events going on all semester and I urge TNL readers to check out their calendar.

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