Mizzou freshmen compete in Engineering Olympics

Winners Justin Lannin (second from left), Anna Merkel (third from left) and Samantha Sample (far right) pose with Associate Dean Hani Salim (left) and guest speaker Morgan DiCarlo (second from right) after the Engineering Olympics.

Winners Justin Lannin (second from left), Anna Merkel (third from left) and Samantha Sample (far right) pose with Associate Dean Hani Salim (left) and guest speaker Morgan DiCarlo (second from right) after the Engineering Olympics.

A total of 10 student teams made up of participants in Mizzou Engineering’s Freshmen Interest Groups (FIGs) gave presentations in an attempt to take top honors in December’s Engineering Olympics.

Out of those ten teams, the top honors ended up going to the team of Anna Merkel, Samantha Sample and Justin Lannin.

This year’s edition of the annual student competition tasked FIG students with coming up with potential solutions to what are known as the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. They are:

  • Advance personalized learning
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse engineer the brain
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Advanced health informatics
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Engineering tools for scientific discovery
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle

“When you actually get them to do things, design for an engineering challenge, they become more connected with the discipline,” said Hani Salim, Mizzou Engineering associate dean for academic programs.

FIGs are groups of Mizzou freshmen who are placed in the same residence halls with similar first-semester course schedules — including a special FIG class led by an upperclassman — in order to help facilitate their transition to college life. They are organized by major.

As part of their FIG course, Mizzou Engineering freshmen develop projects based around the Grand Challenges and present them to their class. The top project from each engineering fig is selected, and those finalists present and compete against each other at the Engineering Olympics.

“It helps the students get engaged more with engineering. They get engaged more with faculty because as they work on these challenges, they talk to professors to help them with concepts,” Salim said.

After the presentations and judging, students and attendees heard from guest speaker Morgan DiCarlo. DiCarlo is a graduate student at Virginia Tech, an advocate for underrepresented groups in the STEM fields, a former NASA intern and a finalist in the Advancing Aspirations Global Scholarship Contest.

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