Engineering Open House ‘reinvents reality’ for visitors

By Tracy Douglas

The Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball Team is not the only nationally ranked program at the University. According to US News and World Report, the College of Engineering at the University ranks fourth in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

This weekend, the College hosted the 85th annual Engineering Open House (EOH), which was themed “Reinventing Reality.”

The EOH Web site said it is one of the largest student-run events of the University and is free to the public.

The central location of the festivities was at a tent between Everitt Lab and Engineering Hall. Dubbed “Area 51,” the area around the tent was surrounded with Ford’s latest automobiles, including the new Mustang. There were 143 student exhibits and more from corporate sponsors Kimberly-Clark, John Deere, Ford, Caterpillar, and Abbott Laboratories.

In Engineering Hall, the corporate sponsors demonstrated the different careers engineers can have.

Abbott Laboratories displayed its thermal imaging technology, among other products. Sherry Oliver-Noe, an Abbott representative, said Abbott Laboratories comes to EOH to help with recruiting efforts.

“Part of our recruiting efforts involve encouraging students in grade school and high school to be in math and science,” Oliver-Noe said. “We want to get more children in science.”

The EOH Web site said that education is its primary goal with the student exhibits.

Grade school and high school students came to the Open House, including a group from Plano Middle School in Plano, Ill.

Plano Middle School teacher Pat Forrer said their group was made up of students from their after-school program for children who are talented in math and science. She said it was their second year coming to EOH.

“Last year, there were more kids. We’d like to bring more kids down,” Forrer said.

High school students participated in the Rube Goldberg High School Design contest in the Illini Union on Friday. Students had to design a machine that would accomplish the task of removing flashlight batteries and installing new batteries in 20 or more steps.

At the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) organized the University engineering students’ exhibits in the first floor hallway.

Gamebuilders, a special interest group with ACM, produced three student-invented computer games.

Erik Freund, co-chair of Gamebuilders and junior in engineering, said they had three projects this year – The Legend of Steel Potato, Monster vs. Army, and the Art of Physics – that the students programmed.

“Everyone has their own talent. Everyone breaks up into their own task and comes together in the end to make the game,” Freund said. Last year, Gamebuilders won the computer science category in the EOH exhibition contest.

During EOH, a panel of University professors judged the University student exhibits and demonstrations.

Oliver-Noe said the college students showed the younger students what engineers do in college and the professionals show the University engineering students what they do in their careers.

“The kids get really into it like it’s a real game,” Freund said. He said the only downside of running an exhibit was not getting to see the rest of EOH.

Besides running exhibits and demonstrations, some students volunteer at EOH. Tonia Shen, junior in engineering, was one of those volunteering.

“I want to be part of EOH,” Shen said. “I can be part of it by volunteering.”