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April 14, 2008
By Sue Putnam
It’s been said that “Normal people... believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.”
Of course, that was said by a cartoonist, so Scott Adams’ words should be taken with a grain or two of salt, but at the Annual Engineers Day, nearly 500 northern Nevada students visited the University to discover the many opportunities and features engineering provides.
Professors and students from the College of Engineering and the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering presented 17 different demonstrations for the students. They included the heating of actual space shuttle tiles, small formula-style racing cars, magnetically levitating balls, video games, robots and earthquakes, and students were impressed.
“Wow,” McQueen High School senior Henry Cay said, as he played with the special air guitar gloves in a lab. “All these sensors are connected to the gloves, so when you move your fingers, you get the different notes.” Cay hopes to attend the University this fall.
Meanwhile in the robotics lab, Spanish Springs High School junior Jared Brusby was presenting the robot he built to a group of middle-schoolers. He programmed it himself and was also working on a robotic arm that will be able to discern colors.
“I have an externship here at the University,” the 17-year-old said. “And it’s fun to show other kids what they can do in engineering, because there are so many ways to use your imagination.”
In the environmental engineering lab, undergraduate student Kerri Hickenbottom fired up a group of students from Sparks Middle School by pitting them against one another in a Jeopardy-style game about water. The kids seemed surprised to learn the brain is 75 percent water, 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation, and 96.5 percent of the earth is water. They were still debating who was wrong and who was right as they walked out the door and headed for the next presentation.
“The event continues to grow every year,” Samantha Azevedo-Dimuzio, the College of Engineering coordinator for Engineers Day said. “We rely on the time of faculty and students from two colleges to participate as tour guides and demonstration stops. Without them this event couldn’t happen. It’s a fun, interactive way to introduce 7-12th graders to what engineering has to offer. A lot of students at those ages don’t really know what they want to be when they grow up and may not know what engineers even do. This is a great educational tool for them to explore their options.”