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Wednesday AM February 17th, 2010

Student engineers at Rice University will take part in an engineer’s week competition this afternoon, solving an engineering problem using common office supplies. Ed Mayberry reports.


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The 2010 Rice University Student Engineers Competition is judged on the length of time required to design and build a device that’s capable of solving the problem.  It’s also judged on the amount of construction materials left unused and how close the solution meets specified criteria.  Patrick Campbell with Amec Paragon is one of the advisors.

“One we give them the problem they’ve got 50 minutes to decide what they’re going to build, and build it.  It’s modeled actually on a British television show from, goodness, 25 years ago called ‘The Great Egg Race’.  They were given a requirement to do some specific thing.  The day before, they’re told what the problem is and what the materials will be.  They can think about it, and actually one team I worked with last year had gone through and actually done a dry run and built an approach at it the night before.”

Campbell has watched the problem-solving for several years of competitions.

“The problem a couple of years ago was to take a ping-pong ball and release it three feet above a table, and two minutes later have it touch the table.  Some decided to build a tower and retard the movement of the ping-pong ball down the tower.  The most successful methods were to inflate a balloon, tape the ping-pong ball on top of the balloon, put in the neck of the balloon a Bic pen, punch a hole in the pen and let the air out of the balloon.”

The engineering competition is set for this afternoon in the Ley Student Center on the University of Rice campus.

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