Navigation Content
University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
You are here:
  1. Home > 
  2. News > 
  3. News archive > 
  4. 2001 > 

"One of the most successful Expos in recent memory"


Picture of a multi-step apple selector built for the Rube Goldberg
                        competition at Expo 2001

Reedsburg High School senior Paul Schonfeld ("Willy Wonka") poses with the multi-step apple selector he and six classmates built for Expo's annual Rube Goldberg competition. A cartoonist for New York's "Evening Mail," Goldberg was most known for drawings of outlandishly complex machines that perform simple tasks in roundabout ways. (large image)

Picture of a robot traversing sand during the Op Robotics
                        competition at Expo 2001

High school participants in the "Terrain Explorers" Op Robotics competition designed and built remote-controlled camera-guided robots that could traverse rough terrain and recover objects in any kind of weather, similar to that which a Martian landing vehicle might experience. The competition took place in the Mechanical Engineering sand volleyball court. (large image)

Picture of Mars lander built by a young visitor to Expo 2001

In an exhibit sponsored by the student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Expo visitors could build their own Mars landers out of pretzels, red licorice strands, marshmallows and other tasty treats. (large image)

Fourth-grade students at Sun Prairie's West Side Elementary School probably didn't expect to learn about engineering from assembling ball-point pens. But divided into groups of individual workers and an assembly line at Engineering EXPO 2001, they experienced one of the most basic principles of industrial engineering: Assembly lines save time.

The biennial event, April 19 through 21 on the engineering campus, drew approximately 7,000 people, many of them kindergarten through 12th-grade students who came to explore some 60 engineering student exhibits and participate in some pretty wild competitions.

Take, for example, the egg toss. On the vast indoor football field in the university's McClain Center, kindergarten through fifth-grade students nestled raw eggs into padded containers they'd made from recyclable materials, then hurled them over a volleyball net, hoping they'd be the closest to a target with egg still intact. As one Schenk (Madison) Middle School fifth-grader deposited his dripping contraption, a plastic one-serving soda bottle stuffed with paper, into a rapidly filling wastebasket, he reflected on the learning experience: "I guess it needed more padding."

While younger students produced some ingenious egg cartons, ninth through 12th-grade participants in the Rube Goldberg competition built some outrageously complex contraptions that selected, peeled and cleaned an apple in at least 19 steps. Seven Reedsburg High School students fabricated an elaborate machine out of pine 2-by-4s, PVC pipe and other materials. To demonstrate it, group member Paul Schonfeld became legendary chocolate-factory owner Willy Wonka, complete with top hat and bright-blue waistcoat. "I compared Willy Wonka to Rube Goldberg," he said. "They both liked wild gadgets and complicated machines."

"Wonka's" teacher, Larry Judge, made the challenge part of his Advanced Physics and Applied Engineering class. "The more opportunities you can give us, the better the experience for our students," he said. Another group from the class participated in the spectator-favorite Op Robotics competition, in which remote-controlled robot vehicles navigate a maze and later, sand dunes, to complete tasks.

"I learned that small wheels don't work on sand," said Jefferson Elementary (Oshkosh) fifth-grade student Chad Goding, watching the competition. At Expo, he also learned how to make concrete float, what steel is made of and how to make computer chips. "I knew about some of this stuff before," he added. "I knew why the (remote-controlled mini ) blimp floated."

Some of Expo's most popular exhibits included Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri's spectacular "Science is Fun" show, the 9-by-16-foot scale Lego model of the engineering campus, and the fleet of new and futuristic vehicles lined up outside of Engineering Hall, said Expo co-chair Luke Vanderbloemen, a senior in civil and environmental engineering.

Students Burris, Hines, Samayoa, and Lukecart at Expo 2001

Bill Burris, Liz Hines, Jeff Samayoa and Nate Lukecart built a machine that makes tiny polymer pillows that "plump" when they get wet for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' student exhibit. Kimberly-Clark sponsored the project. (large image)

Picture of a page turner built by biometical engineering students
                        and displayed at Expo 2001.

Several biomedical engineering students demonstrated innovative solutions, including a hand-powered bicycle, a system for treating babies whose skulls don't form properly, and this battery-powered page turner. (large image)

Biomedical engineering students demonstrated such projects as a sip-and-puff-operated page-turning device, a machine that delivers nitric oxide to severe high blood pressure sufferers, and a system that can help adhere cells to plastic for artificial valves and organs. Members of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers made and distributed tiny "pillows." Emblazoned with the UW-Madison motion "W," the polymer-filled packets swelled when recipients immersed them in water. In the college's foundry, fourth-graders and their teachers from Middleton's Northside Elementary School watched as college students poured 1,500-degree aluminum into a mold.

More than 200 student volunteers made the event, which took 18 months to plan, a success, said Vanderbloemen. "We as a group are very pleased with Expo," he said. "Really our success is not measured by the number of people, but by how much each person enjoyed their Expo experience. And when you look at it like that, this was one of the most successful Expos in recent memory."