Engineering Advisory Board hosts edible car, duct tape, talent competitions

Cheez Whiz and peanut butter might not be NASCAR material, but they fueled a neck-and-neck race during the “Build an edible car competition,” one of many events that took place during this year’s National Engineering Week.

National Engineering Week, an annual event that takes place at universities all over the United States, has been celebrated at the University of Miami since 1958.

The Engineering Advisory Board, an umbrella organization for the other student groups within the College of Engineering, planned the week-long activities and competitions to create awareness of engineering opportunities for UM students. They also used it as an opportunity to promote an interest in science and technology in the community. The events took place the same week as President’s Day to commemorate George Washington’s interest in engineering, in addition to his birthday.

Of the 800 undergraduate students enrolled in the College of Engineering, about 300 participated. Some of the events included a duct tape stick-up competition, where students taped their classmates to a wall; a talent show, during which one of the winners solved a Rubik’s cube in less than 45 seconds; and an edible car competition, a race to build a car using anything from marshmallows to peanut butter.

Matt Clemente, the EAB vice chair, emphasized that the events were designed to get the whole school involved, since there were tricks that even non-engineering students could learn to win the competitions.

During the duct-tape competition, students tried to keep a team member taped to the wall for 15 minutes. Clemente said that this year four groups kept their team member stuck to the wall for the entire 15 minutes and the group that won used the least amount of tape.

Students also recognized “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” and invited 130 female high school students to tour the college of engineering, meet female engineers and participate in hands-on activities that took place inside the engineering school labs.

High school students also had a chance to come to the Coral Gables during the “Build-It” competition, an event where students were asked to design an apparatus that met specific criteria outlined by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

“It was [quite] an experience to deal with over 100 high school students and have it come out organized and successful,” said Shane Esola, the vice president of ASME and Build-It coordinator. “This competition brought in a lot of female participants.”

Students from 12 high schools participated in the Build-It event.

“I came last year and liked it too,” Lisa Herran, a Carrollton High School senior, said. “I learned that in order to win, the simpler your [apparatus] is, the better.”

The outreach programs were designed to support a pre-college interest in skills necessary for engineering, such as math, science and abstract thinking. They were also aimed at addressing the shortage of female students interested in engineering-related fields. Although women make up half of all college students nationwide, they comprise only 20 percent of engineering students and only 10 percent of the engineering workforce.

Ann Helmers, administrative adviser to the EAB, believes that the outreach programs successfully created awareness of UM’s engineering program in the greater Miami community.

“We really do have quite a few students that are walking around on campus as a result of outreach programs like engineering week,” she said. “It’s great.”

Engineering Week ended with happy hour at the Rathskeller Friday and a beach picnic Saturday.

In addition to showcasing technology, talent and creativity, the engineering students wanted to prove that they know how to have a good time.

“We put together 18 fun and different events,” Alfonso Dagger, the EAB chair, said. “We just wanted to break the stereotype that an engineer has a pocket-protector and sits in a corner making something all the time.”

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at