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Engineering a Good Time

Engineering a Good TimeSchool of Engineering students have some fun with their major as they participated in Tufts' first National Engineers' Week festivities.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.03.09] Baking soda, duct tape and an old Toyota Camry were among the ingredients that made Tufts' first celebration of National Engineers' Week a success.

The student-run week, held Feb. 17-20, featured 11 events coordinated by 10 School of Engineering student groups. The competitions, ranging from ice cream making to giant Twister, combined engineering knowledge with light-hearted entertainment.

"It's a little tongue-in-cheek, but it's a fun way to get to use your engineering skills," says event organizer and mechanical engineering graduate student Matt Van Lieshout, noting how a volcano-making competition involved calculating the optimal blend of vinegar and baking soda.

Van Lieshout participated in 'E-Week' as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Although he proposed the idea to Dean Linda Abriola's office only a few weeks prior, student groups were still able to make the event a success despite the time crunch.

"All the organizations have done an awesome job," says Van Lieshout. "Hopefully we'll have the momentum to build on this and plan it a couple of months ahead of time next year to really have a full thing going."

Natalie Varner (E'10), vice president of the Tufts chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), says that with E-Week, "we have all kinds of events and people from all the different groups coming together, so it's a lot of fun." She noted that engineering students from each of the different years rarely have a chance to interact.

Fun certainly describes events like the clown car competition, hosted by ASCE, in which teams attempted to pack as many people as possible into a Toyota Camry owned by the School of Engineering. Members of the ASCE proved victorious, cramming 13 people into the small vehicle in less than five minutes.

Watch the clown car competition in stop-motion:


Nearby, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) hosted a "Stuck on You" contest, requiring groups to duct tape members to a wall. Points were awarded based on height and amount of tape used.

"It's kind of engineering, the way to try to conserve [tape] and create a really creative situation," explained NSBE chair Nicole Slaughter, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.

Again, the ASCE chapter was triumphant. Through the use of ladders and strategy, the group taped its participant only inches from the ceiling, where she remained for a required 30 seconds without support.

Watch the duct tape competition in stop-motion: 


The exciting week culminated with a "Mr. and Ms. Engineer" competition. A panel judged contestants in categories including putting together an outfit they feel represents an engineering student, responses to offbeat questions, a talent competition and response to the question "[If elected] what would be one of your first actions to improve the School of Engineering?" Varner won the title of Ms. Engineer, with Mr. Engineer going to mechanical engineering graduate student Alfram Bright.

Overall, E-Week was a success, with some events attracting close to 50 students. Many students expressed hope that the events would continue in the future.

"I think Engineers' Week is [not only] for people to recognize that engineering is a cool major, but it's also a way for engineers to have fun together," said junior mechanical engineer Peggy Tautz.

Story by Molly Frizzell (A'09). Photos by Joanie Tobin for University Photography.

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