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Hundreds visit engineering expo, enjoy race

A racetrack engulfed Parking Lot 8C this weekend in the name of engineering.

An estimated 1,600 individuals and students from various schools around the community attended the 33rd annual Engineering EXPO located in front of the engineering building to educate and get kids and members of the community interested in various engineering fields such as physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering through a variety of demonstrations and projects such as the Electrathon electric car race.

The USF student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) had been looking forward to the race and said it had been working on its car for eight weeks.

“This (was) our first year hosting (the race), and everyone (was) really excited (about) the technical racetrack,” senior and ASME Vice Chairman Chris Tuggle said.

The Electrathon consisted of two races, and along with ASME, competitors included community members and high school students from as far away as Fort Myers.

The battery-powered cars could fit just one person, and most looked aerodynamic and futuristic.

“What has been really nice about the race is that it has attracted a lot of young people,” Tuggle said. “I think this competition is going to be an opportunity for younger people to get involved, and it is going to be something that they can build upon.”

The Panther Racing team from Milton High School was the overall winner of the race. Even though ASME did not win, the members were still happy with the event and their car.

“I was very happy with the way that the car looked, (and) it ran really good. We had a few mistakes, but I think for our first race we did really well,” senior Dan Bennett said. “(In the second) race we were in first place when the wheel on the spindle came off after about the sixth lap.”

Bennett said that he was extremely pleased with the turnout, and in the future they plan to make the electric car race an annual event.

There was more at EXPO than just the Electrathon, however.

The Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) showed off its regularly used rescue robots.

“We had a demonstration from CRASAR which showed how the robots were used in Sept. 11 and during Hurricane Katrina,” Director of Publicity Monica Escobar said. “The robots are controlled by computers, and students had a chance to play around with them.”

According to Escobar, the robots are able to record pictures and remove debris with lasers.

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICE) put on a “Chemical Magic Show,” which showed off various magic tricks using chemical reactions. Some of the acts included turning a penny into gold by using sulfuric acid. They also demonstrated how to use liquid nitrogen to freeze various objects, such as a Sponge Bob ball and a latex glove. The frozen objects were then dropped onto the ground, and the audience watched as the objects shattered into tiny fragments.

Another prominent demonstration was “Physics: the Science of Everything,” which was constructed by the Physics Students Association. The goal of the show was to get the community and students interested in physics. At one point during the show, a physics student made a pan float by using magnetic electricity.

EXPO also included a laser light show, put on by the Institute of Electrical and Electric Engineers (IEEE). More than just a light show, IEEE offered information and safety lessons too. It taught visitors about the dangers of looking into lasers and also explained how lasers work.

According to senior and IEEE member Jeremy Ludes, the reasons for educating the public about lasers are because they can be dangerous but also fun.

“Lasers have been growing in today’s technologies with CD players, DVD players and computers,” Ludes said.

The EXPO also contained many displays that explained a large range of science and engineering topics, such as water treatment and wastewater managements. There was even a display showing the engineering of cooking and utensils that eased the stresses of cooking.