Quiet Carpets and Fiberglass Formation: UB Students Solve Engineering Problems to Win Knovel University Challenge

By Erin Maynard

Release Date: February 14, 2012 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Want to know why your footfalls echo more loudly on bare floors than on those that are carpeted?

It's due to something called the "noise reduction coefficient" and University at Buffalo students Rahul S. Thakkar, a senior electrical engineering and mathematics double major, and Vivek Kamath, a graduate computer science major who completed his studies in December, know all about this principle. They also know the melting point of nylon 6, the density of high-volume fly ash concrete, and the uses for methyl ethyl ketone peroxide.

Correct answers to questions about these topics (and more like them) helped the two UB students place very highly in the 2011 Knovel University Challenge. The challenge is a series of questions on engineering-related topics presented by Knovel, a web-based company that combines industry-specific information, analytical capabilities and search tools in applications designed to assist engineers and applied scientists in their research.

Thakkar won the grand prize and beat out 5,600 students from 600 universities in 93 countries in order to walk away with an iPad 2. Additionally, Kamath was one of 17 other students to win a prize. UB was the only institution represented by multiple winners.

Two hundred eighteen UB students achieved correct answers 328 times in the sixth annual competition. UB's high number of student submissions to the competition ensured that the university was guaranteed entry into another "contest-within-a-contest," one reserved for those schools with outstanding participation. Kamath was one of eight winners of that smaller competition and received an iPod nano.

In this year's version of the challenge, students could choose a series of questions from various levels of difficulty and had to correctly answer at least three of the questions presented. According to Virgil Wong, marketing associate for Knovel, the contest allowed students to submit two incorrect answers before being forced to exit the program and restart the challenge. Due to the multiple difficulty levels, there were over 12,000 entries in this year's competition -- a 55 percent increase in participation from last year.

In order to enter the contest, the participants had to use Knovel's resources to answer the questions. The specialized full-text database is one of many available to UB students. What makes Knovel's resource unique, according to Nancy Schiller, UB engineering librarian in the UB Sciences and Engineering Library, are its dynamic, interactive features. "For about 1,000 engineering handbooks, Knovel has programmed the tables and graphs so they're not static and instead will solve for different variables," Schiller said. She hopes that by inviting students to compete in the competition, they will become more familiar with the resources available at the UB Libraries.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. 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.