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Archive for Saturday, February 26, 1994

STUDENTS ENGINEER THE IMPROBABLE

February 26, 1994

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Aspiring engineers put their minds to the test during the 1994 Engineering Expo at KU.

How complex can a flag-raising machine be?

Can a mousetrap fly?

How much weight can a tower made of 3-by-5 index cards hold?

These and other riddles were answered Friday by high school and college students during the 1994 Engineering Expo at Kansas University. The day-long program was sponsored by the Engineering Student Council.

"The purpose is to promote engineering at KU ... and help get high school students interested in engineering," said KU engineering senior Robynn Evert of Lawrence.

"It's also to show engineering is fun. We're not all just a bunch of geeks," said Evert, who is also vice president of the engineering council.

Students could visit information booths and exhibits as well as participate in contests that challenged the limits of their engineering abilities.

Mark Stalsworth, a high school junior from Lincoln Prep in Kansas City, Mo., built an index card tower that held up under 177 pounds of metal weights.

His creation was made from a dozen index cards folded into cylinders and glued together.

"The key is to build short and strong," said Stalsworth, who expects to study computer programming or mechanical engineering in college.

If you want to know about flying mousetraps, call Jim Stilwell, KU aerospace engineering senior. He was in charge of the mousetrap-powered airplane contest.

After five competitors had performed Friday, the longest flight was 51 inches. Last year's winning entry logged 32 feet.

"The purpose is to take an idea on paper and turn it into hardware that works," Stilwell said.

He said it was important to get high school students interested in engineering principles.

"By the time they get to college ... they'll be able to analyze problems better," Stilwell said.

The Rube Goldberg Contest drew the most enthusiastic contestants. Lucius "Rube" Goldberg, whose zany drawings of impossibly complex devices gave birth to the phrase "Rube Goldberg contraption," died in 1970.

Evert, last year's winner of the Goldberg Contest, said she didn't harbor much hope of a repeat title. The objective this year was to build the most complicated flag-raising machine possible.

"Mine is simple," she said, pointing to Jayhawk Spirit II. "There's one over there with a live pigeon in it."

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