In These Amazing Summer 'Games,' Student Engineers Flex Mental Muscles

Tech-oriented kids race to put their know-how to the test

Release Date: July 25, 2008 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo faculty members challenged teams of Western New York's best and brightest high school students to prove their scientific and mathematical mettle in a brain-teasing race around the UB North (Amherst) Campus today.

Using some of UB Engineering's high-tech lab resources, student teams competed to destroy a miniature building in a simulated earthquake, detect hidden weapons in X-ray images of luggage, use trigonometry to operate a mechanical robot and calculate turbulence in a wind tunnel.

The "BEAMazing (Be-Amazing) Race" is organized by UB's BEAM program (Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities). Volunteers from Fisher-Price, Ciminelli, Moog, URS and Verizon also are participating.

The race is a special event for the 21 students enrolled this summer in BEAM, UB's cooperative educational enrichment program that prepares inner-city, minority, female and other under-represented students for careers in science, engineering, and technology. BEAM students attended classes and field trips. Some BEAM students are already conducting research with UB professors.

"These 21 high school seniors all have 'graduated' from BEAM's various camps, Saturday academies and other middle school and high school offerings," said Harvey Stenger, Jr., Ph.D., dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "These are the ones who have consistently risen to the challenge as each program has increased in difficulty; they are tomorrow's engineers."

The idea for the event came from Robert Tom, director of engineering for Fisher-Price and the race coordinator, who modeled the "BEAMazing Race" in part after CBS's "Amazing Race" television show concept.

Students were given clues about where to find venues and assigned engineering tasks to complete, along with trivia questions to answer throughout the UB campus. Upon reaching their final destination, they had an ultimate task to perform that reinforces how important it is for engineers to take an environmentally responsible perspective.

"The BEAMazing Race brings together two very important issues that exist today: how to generate interest in engineering careers in the United States and the importance of diversity to the profession," said Tom, who earned degrees from UB in engineering and business administration. "Sound engineering and the innovation that comes from diversity are what we need to develop great products for an increasingly competitive and changing global marketplace."

BEAMazing Race participants are students from the following high schools: City Honors, Hutch Tech, Canisius, Maryvale, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, Orchard Park, Amherst Central, McKinley, Lancaster, Buffalo Seminary, Sweet Home, Cardinal O'Hara and Cleveland Hill.

UB faculty members and staff who developed and hosted the engineering contests are Thomas M. Albrechcinski, site operations manager of UB's Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory; Ann Bisantz, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial engineering; Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D., professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering; David Forliti, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Venu Govindaraju, Ph.D., professor of computer science and engineering; and Jennifer Zirnheld, Ph.D., deputy director, Energy Systems Institute in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

BEAM was founded in 1982 by a consortium that included UB Engineering, Linde-Union Carbide (now Praxair, Inc.), Omega Phi Phi Fraternity and the Buffalo Public Schools. Funding is made possible through the generous support of companies, educational institutions, community organizations and individuals. For more information about BEAM, go to

Founded in 1946, the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has 150 faculty members and an enrollment of more than 2,300 students. UB Engineering offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in six departments. The school's annual research expenditures are approximately $50 million; its per-faculty research expenditure puts it in the top 10 percent of U.S. engineering schools, according to data from the National Science Foundation. UB Engineering works with corporate partners in a variety of ways ranging from joint research ventures, to continuing education, to co-op work arrangements for students.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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