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Engineering Expo celebrates hands-on learning

Engineering EXPO 2003
Engineering EXPO 2003
Engineering EXPO 2003
Engineering EXPO 2003
Engineering EXPO 2003

At 9:17 a.m. Thursday, 12-year-old Heidi Becker dropped an egg 30 feet on to the hard, concrete floor of the Engineering Centers Building.

It did not break.

That earned Becker a certificate of merit at the College of Engineering's Engineering EXPO, and standing as the first of dozens of students who managed to devise a container for their poultry product, drop it 30 feet, and not come out with a scrambled egg.

The egg toss was just one of several exhibits and hands-on experiments at Engineering EXPO. The three-day student-run exhibition aims to showcase the world of science and engineering to young students and the public.

A clear favorite for audience participation was the chance to launch an egg — encased in a container — onto a concrete floor without breaking it. More than 500 students signed up for the chance to keep their eggs whole.

Becker's secret: An egg stuck in a single egg carton container, shoved in a light-bulb box stuffed with Styrofoam, which in turn was stuffed inside a gift box with more Styrofoam, which was then put in a small flower box filled with even more Sytrofoam.

"I just wanted to make it so that it would have something that would soak up the energy and make it compressed so the egg wouldn't break," said Becker, a sixth grader at Jefferson Middle School in Madison.

The judges were impressed.

"It was definitely well-constructed," said Melissa Furhman, a freshman electrical engineering student from Minnesota who volunteered to watch the egg drop.

For many students, the EXPO presented an opportunity to see technology up close. Students crowded around a quarter-sized version of the engine used in C-17 military cargo planes. Others found out what it's like to sit behind — if not drive — a specially designed Ford Mustang that can go from a standing start to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Some found their way to the Engineering Centers Building Myers Student Automotive Center, where they crawled on, sat in, and pretended to drive trucks, snowmobiles, electric cars, and off-road vehicles. "A Bug's Life" played on the pop-down screen of the FutureTruck, generating an audience of students who squeezed into the truck's back seat.

Other popular features: A "Blimp Cam," in which a camera attached to the bottom of a remote-controlled blimp that flew around the Engineering Centers Building relayed pictures to a television; hand-made kite flying, where engineering students such as Michael Kier helped youngsters fashion kites out of a plain piece of paper; and computer chess games held in Engineering Hall.

As for the young students, there may even be a prospective engineer or two amid their ranks. Engineering student Nate Altfeather, winner of the college's 2002 student-invention Schoofs Prize for Creativity, noted one youngster had the good sense to put his crudely wrapped egg — bundled in green plastic wrap, old newspapers, and tissue paper — in a plastic cup. His egg didn't break.

"The cup really bounced," Altfeather said. "It absorbed the fall really well."