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MU Engineering hosts first-ever FIG Engineering Olympics

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MU Engineering hosts first-ever FIG Engineering Olympics

A judge inspects the status of an egg after it dropped from the top of a ladder in the MU Engineering FIG Olympics.

A judge inspects the status of an egg after it dropped from the top of a ladder in the MU Engineering FIG Olympics. Photo by Shelby Kardell

The MU College of Engineering’s first-ever Freshman Interest Group (FIG) Engineering Olympics were held at the College early in December.

The event, for which student teams had seven minutes to present and demonstrate an engineering project they had planned and constructed during the semester, was the final project for the engineering FIG program.

“It’s a fantastic way for freshman engineering students to learn teamwork, be exposed to the engineering design process and display what they’ve done in a competitive type of way but still with a sense of fun and community,” said Jill Ford, executive director of student programs.

Each of the College of Engineering’s FIGs were separated into three to four teams and each selected a project with pre-established goals. Examples of projects included a water filtration system to produce drinkable water and a prosthetic leg that could walk a certain distance, kick a ball and let the wearer bend down to pick up an item.

Each team had a $25 budget for its project and the opportunity to receive extra credit for using recycled materials. The project was also required to incorporate ethical considerations, such as possible ramifications of the project on the public and the ethicality of the research.

The first round of the competition was held within the FIG classes, where the best projects were chosen from each of engineering’s 15 FIGs to move on to the Olympics for the final round. A panel of three faculty members judged the teams on their presentation, dress, demeanor, delivery and their implementation of learned skills.

“One of my favorites was the prosthetic leg,” said Marty Walker, engineering’s director of administrative services, citing developing nations where many people are missing limbs but have few resources for prosthetics. “That is quite a problem, so it was good to have them see the need for a prosthetic leg, and what it takes to make a prosthetic leg.”

However, the social benefit was not the only important aspect of the project. It was important for the teams to explain their development process and to display how they applied engineering principles.

“It was hard to separate the value of the project from the other criteria that we were judging,” said Steve Devlin, program director and assistant dean for the College of Engineering, who acted as one of the judges. “One of the things that’s critical for engineers in today’s society is it’s not enough to be able to solve the problems, you have to be able to communicate your solutions to people.”

The three top-scoring teams were announced during a luncheon held on Monday, Dec. 8, each receiving a gift card as a prize. First place went to the team of Paige Robison, Matthew Barmann, Alex Beck and Logan Kluesner, with their prosthetic leg.

The Engineering Olympics is a change from the catapult launch, the previous engineering FIG final project where FIG teams designed and constructed a catapult that could launch an egg into a frying pan from a distance.

“The catapult was more mechanically focused, and we wanted to really spread it out,” said Ford. “We wanted to try something new where students needed to put a little more time and thought into the development of the project, and the project was incorporated more within the theme and class lessons of the FIG, so that it really ended up being more of a cultivating experience.”

Walker worked closely with each engineering department to develop a diverse list of projects that could fit within each discipline. According to Walker, those involved in the FIG program view the Engineering Olympics as a success and want to continue with it in the future as opposed to the catapult launch.

“These small projects can be completed in a short period of time but also challenge the creative spirit of the student, have the rigor we’re looking for and actually accomplish something,” said Walker. “These young men and women are going to be tomorrow’s leaders, and they will be representing this category of people that really are full of ideas and can change the world. One small idea taken to the right step can make so many other people’s lives so much easier.”

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