Engineering Department gears up for competitions to ‘accelerate’ growth of clubs

Some people race cars. Others race concrete canoes and robots.

Last year the school of engineering conducted research into which areas students were expressing interest in and as a result have begun forming two new competitive clubs: the American Society of Civil Engineers concrete canoe, and the Walker Robotics Club.

“I am excited about the opportunity to start a new club that will bring people together and challenge them in many different ways,” senior Samantha McLain said. “People will be able to get together and have fun while learning and forming new relationships. I look forward to seeing the team grow and succeed.”

McLain is an electrical engineering major and she has taken on a leadership role in the robotics club as part of her senior project. Every senior participates in a design project before graduation and this year around twenty different projects were proposed for the graduating class of over 50 engineers.

The program is still assessing which competitions they would like to participate in, and this will help determine which tasks the robot is required to perform.

“Historically we’ve had some years more than others with interest in a robotics club, but they usually fizzle out. If it’s a competition you have something you’re working towards for motivation,” said engineering department office manager Rachel Groters.

The hope of the department is that a competitive spirit will help to accelerate the growth of a robotics club and maintain interest. “I mean who doesn’t want to build a robot?” McLain said.

The second addition to the engineering department will be a group building a concrete canoe that they hope to compete with next June.

“We have not yet formed the chapter of ASCE, so part of the club and its process will be to investigate all of the requirements and what we need to do to move forward,” engineering Professor Allen Young said. “We’ve had about eight or nine students express interest so far. There are three seniors and a lot of sophomores who want to be involved.”

The first competition from the ASCE took place in 1988, but two universities take ownership of the first regional competitions–University of Illinois Champaign and University of California Berkley.

Young attended the second national competition in 1989 as a graduate assistant with a group while he was working on his masters. He is looking forward to taking his own group of students this year and has worked hard to expand the club beyond just a senior project so that more students can take an interest in the competition.

“A lot of people don’t think that a concrete canoe is very intuitive, but battleships are made out of steel,” Young said. “It is just an issue of displacing enough water than the weight of the concrete and the people in the canoe.”

The ASCE competition consists of two parts, a physical race between the boats and a technical paper, which the students will write and present in front of the other universities in attendance.

“The students who build the boats will also be in the boats competing so they have a vested interest in making a good boat,” Groters said.

Even though these two clubs are in the early stages of their formation the department is looking forward to having robotics and the concrete canoe join ranks with the school’s first competitive program, Baja.

“They race [cars] and do other assorted competitions usually in the May of every year, all over the country,” Groters said. “They race against over a 100 schools, usually about 120. We usually tend towards the middle of the 120. Last year we had about twenty students involved in some way.”

With an incoming freshman class boasting of around 90 engineering students, the department is facing the future with promise of more growth. Olivet’s engineering department has experienced unforeseen growth over the last several years. They have added six new concentrations and now host 10 percent of the university’s student body in their department.

Erica Browning, Staff Writer

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