EOH’s popularity to draw big crowds

By Kate Levine

The College of Engineering will sponsor “Beyond Imagination,” its 86th annual Engineering Open House, Friday and Saturday.

The free event, organized by the student-run Engineering Council, draws approximately 20,000 visitors between its two days and is one of the nation’s largest science fairs, said Paul Braun, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

“The main goal is a combination of education and publicity,” he said. “From a publicity standpoint . here’s an opportunity to bring in people from all over the state of Illinois and show off the college.”

More than 140 student exhibits will be on display, said Doug Johnson, director of the open house and graduate student. Each of the school’s departments showcase 10 to 20 exhibits about their respective major.

Freshmen in Braun’s Introduction to Materials Science class are required to participate as part of their term project. Upperclassmen may volunteer to present projects they find interesting.

“A lot of these projects are done in their free time,” Johnson said. “(Engineering Open House) gives them a forum to display their creativity and get some recognition for it.”

Exhibits show how engineering plays a role in everyday life and how the field will shape the future, according to the event’s Web site.

They are also meant to “entertain and show the fun side of science and engineering,” said Kyle Wilcoxen, president of Undergraduate Materials Organization, a materials science group and sponsor of many freshmen projects.

“One of the biggest misconceptions . is that EOH is just for engineers,” he said. “We try to appeal to all ages and all interests.”

Projects will be judged Friday morning by faculty and other impartial judges, Braun said. Students will be awarded in eight categories including creativity and uniqueness.

Twenty-three student teams from the University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Valparaiso University and the University of Mexico will participate in an objective-based robotic contest Friday and Saturday.

The robots are supposed to complete certain objectives and compete against each other, Johnson said. The contest “promotes excellence in engineering through multidisciplinary cooperation” and awards more than $5,000 in prizes, according to the event’s Web site.

Student teams from across the state participate in the annual High School Design Contest, a competition of both technical ability and creativity, Friday. Teams must construct complicated Rube Goldberg machines that complete simple tasks. This year, designers are challenged to shred five pieces of paper in at least 20 roundabout steps, Johnson said.

Elementary and middle school students can participate in contests using everyday objects to demonstrate basic engineering principles. This year, the young students will create catapults, Johnson said.

“It’s a lot of hands-on and show-and-tell demonstration,” Braun said.

Many middle schools visit the fair as their school trip each year, he said.

Visitors of all ages will have a chance to test their engineering abilities during the Illini Engineering Challenge on Saturday. The challenge will be “surprise,” Johnson said.

Several corporations, including Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Motorola, Inc., and Raytheon Company, will display their products, hold demonstrations and talk to students.

Caterpillar will bring a large equipment simulator to mimic the driving of large machines this year, Johnson said.

Other festivities include the formal dedication of the college’s new Engineering Student Projects Laboratory at 2 p.m. Friday.

Food and live entertainment will be available in “Area 51,” a tent across the street from the Illini Union. Students will lead tours of the exhibits starting from this location.