USF’s College of Engineering celebrated National Engineers Week by helping to educate the community, local industries and students in grades K-12 with its annual Engineering EXPO this weekend.
EXPO showcased projects constructed by USF students and hosted science shows, contests, guided tours and hands-on displays.
One of the main events at EXPO was a demonstration of Robin Murphy’s Search and Rescue Robots that were used for the World Trade Center search and rescue efforts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Not only did Murphy demonstrate her robots that show what it was like to be on the frontlines of the rescue operation, but she also presented a video that she and her students took during the search and rescue operation in New York.
Aside from the demonstrations of the rescue robots, visitors were also given the opportunity to enjoy science shows put on by USF organizations.
A popular show was the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ chemistry magic show for adults and children of all ages. The presentation showcased some of the principles used by chemists and chemical engineers by demonstrating several chemical reactions and changes of state, such as gas, solid and liquid.
Not to be outdone, the USF Physics Department along with the Society of Physics Students put on a science show of their own, which included demonstrations of several different laws of science.
In order to effectively demonstrate how the basic principle of pressure works, one of the physics students lay between two beds of nails while another student stood on top.
Some of the other scientific principles demonstrated included energy, momentum, sound, light and electricity. Another show used what the physics department called the cannihilator, which held an aluminum can between coils that were charged with a large amount of electricity.
Once the electrical charge reached its maximum capacity, it was released into the coil and split the aluminum can into two parts.
Although there were educational shows that demonstrated the principles of physics and chemistry, EXPO also treated guests to a number of competitions between school-aged kids that put their civil-engineering skills to the test.
The American Society of Civil Engineers, who hosted a balsa-wood bridge competition at EXPO, put on the first of such building endeavors.
For this contest, a group of students had to design and construct a small model bridge made out of balsa wood and glue. Students designed the bridges at home, brought them in to be judged and then loaded them with medal rods until the bridge collapsed.
Another exciting contest at EXPO was the gumdrop and spaghetti tower competition that was put on by Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honors Society. In the contest, groups of three people had to work as a team to build a tower out of spaghetti and gumdrops within a specified time limit. The towers were required to stand on their own without any help and were judged on two criteria: their overall height and their height-to-base ratio.
Flights of Fancy, which was put on by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, showcased a wind tunnel showing airflow over a wing, how Frisbees fly, a model rocket engine using strain gages explaining Newton’s three laws of motion and ultra light aircrafts.
EXPO was also the site of a Battlebots competition with entries from several universities and high schools. Those competing were fighting for the honor of receiving the Golden Nut, Silver Nut or Bronze Nut. In the central display area of main sponsors, such as TECO Energy and Honeywell, visitors were able to get a better understanding of how these companies contribute to their lives.
TECO, one of the main sponsors, had a number of tables set up in the main engineering building. The displays featured a multitude of topic, including how homes receive electricity, the different types of wires used in line construction and the pros and cons of renewable and non-renewable resources.
Hoping to show the amount of energy involved in everyday processes, TECO also had a display that allowed visitors to power light bulbs by riding a bike.
Along with the exhibits from larger companies, students were also given space to demonstrate their inventions.
Among the creations was a canoe that was built out of a mixture of concrete. The canoe was one of many built for a local competition where they are judged for their density and ability to float.
Achilleas Kourtellis, a civil engineering student in the American Society of Civil Engineering, said in order for the canoe to float, he needed to mix different elements, including concrete, to create a substance with low density. Kourtellis said he would be entering his canoe in this year’s contest that will be held at USF on March 17.
Another student exhibit that got people’s attention was the USF Mini-Baja exhibit, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). At the show, SAE demonstrated its Mini-Baja race car from last year as well as showing off the new vehicle that will be entered in this year’s Mini-Baja SAE design competition.
Every year, students go through the entire process of conceptualizing a vehicle, designing it, constructing a prototype, presenting it for review by a fictitious firm and then proving it works by racing it against hundreds of teams from around the world.
Although the 2004 USF Engineering EXPO has ended, students and faculty are already preparing for next year’s event. For those interested in engineering that would like to experience the latest technological advances, mark your calendars for next year’s event that takes place Feb. 25-26. For more information, please visit www.eng.usf.edu/expo/ .