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Robots, rockets and more all during Engineering Week


Published February 27, 2014

Hundreds of students crowded around a makeshift arena in the Student Union, excited as a battle between two robots ended with one being hauled off, a smoking hulk.

The series of battles in which several robots were launched into the air or beaten motionless was the culmination of this year’s Engineering Week, a series of engineering and science-themed competitions and events.

The events, held Feb. 16-21, also featured a cryogenics demonstration, rocket launches, a 3D-printed car derby and salsa-making.

Hosted by UB’s 15 engineering clubs and the professional engineering fraternity, Theta Tau, the programs are held to promote interaction among participating clubs and the campus.

“Engineering Week is designed to bring engineering into the spotlight,” says Joseph Pace, engineering council coordinator. “There’s a classic idea that the engineers are all holed up in Furnas and Bell doing their homework. So, this is a way for students to see what’s going on in the engineering school, as well as for the clubs to get a chance to compete with one another.”

Each group organized an event, with a few hosting two. Clubs earned points by hosting competitions, taking part in other club’s events and for placing either first, second or third in contests.

The four groups with the highest total of points at the end of the week are awarded funds for their club budgets. This year’s winners, first to fourth respectively, were Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and Biomedical Engineering Society.

The largest event was Bot Wars, hosted by SAE. Construction of some the robots began as early as the fall semester, while some clubs remolded last year’s entries.

The rules were simple: two robots no greater than 50 pounds each had to survive four minutes in the ring with each other. Fire, corrosive chemicals and projectiles are banned. Eleven robots were entered in the competition, but SAE’s machine prevailed, wining for the second year in a row.

Several popular events returned as well, including orange chucking, engineering-themed “Jeopardy” and a Mr. and Mrs. Engineer pageant.

The pageant, hosted by Society of Women Engineers, judged contestants on “nerd” attire, professional attire, engineering skills and talent. Student’s performed a variety of acts, ranging from playing the violin to a dramatic reading of the theme song from the television show “The Big Bang Theory.”

New events included:

  • A cryogenic demonstration by Praxair, a supplier of industrial gases. Company representatives first explained the process and study of freezing materials, then froze a banana and used it to hammer a nail into a board.
  • Robo-Picasso, hosted by UB Robotics, allowed students to draw a picture using a robotic arm controlled by a hand-motion sensor.
  • Separation Challenge – put together by AIChE – forced students to purchase filtration supplies with a limited amount of mock currency and economically filter dirty water. Teams were judged on the water’s clarity and purity. ESW and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ samples were so pure, however, that they had to test the water in a lab to determine the winner.
  • In another AIChE challenge, students walked on a liquid mixture of cornstarch and water. Because the concoction mimics a solid when pressure is applied to it, students were able to walk quickly across the mixture without sinking.
  • 3-D Printing Derby – presented by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – allowed teams to design a car on a computer, create the design using a 3-D printer and then race the cars on a track.

Engineering Week is sponsored by the Student Association; Northrup Grumman Corp.; Applied Sciences Group; C&S Engineers, Inc.; Kiewit Corp.; Niagara Specialty Metals; and Turner Construction.