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Energizing Your Engineering Program Through Competitions And Team Based Projects

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Innovative Teaching/Learning Strategies

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.530.1 - 9.530.3

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Paper Authors

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Steve Ezzell

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Paul Gordy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Energizing your Engineering program through competitions and team-based projects Paul Gordy, Associate Professor – Engineering, Tidewater Community College Steve Ezzell, Assistant Professor – Engineering, Tidewater Community College

Engineering faculty members Paul Gordy and Steve Ezzell had been looking for opportunities to get their students involved in more than just coursework as they pursued their degrees. The Engineering curriculum at Tidewater Community College was a solid two-year transfer program, but Gordy and Ezzell felt that students didn’t have the same opportunities as four-year students to experience the excitement of engineering projects. Four-year colleges and universities have numerous labs with intriguing experiments, research projects involving new ideas and applications in engineering, and student organizations with exciting competitions that give students a taste of working on real engineering projects. How could the community college offer such experiences? Gordy and Ezzell began on a journey when they formed the TCC Engineering Club that led to opportunities, successes, and benefits that they never anticipated.

The TCC Engineering Club The TCC Engineering Club was formed as a student chapter of NSPE, the National Society of Professional Engineers. After considering several engineering societies, NSPE seemed to be a good choice for including students interested in all engineering disciplines. The club began with some of the usual activities – field trips, speakers, and service projects. But Gordy and Ezzell were looking for competitions to really get the students involved.

Campus Competitions Gordy and Ezzell began with a campus competition each February during National Engineer’s Week. Prizes were often awarded for the best designs and participation was excellent with as many as 40 students entering each event. These competitions included: • Truss-busting competition - Students designed and built balsa wood trusses that were loaded until failure. • Cable car competition - Students designed and built vehicles to travel on a 150’ cable across TCC’s lake as quickly as possible using a battery and specified motor. • Water tower competition – Students designed and built balsa wood towers that supported a large water tank that was pumped full of water until the tower collapsed.

Gordy and Ezzell invited structural engineers from local engineering firms to judge the truss- busting competition. Students were very interested in the judges’ comments about the various designs. An unexpected benefit as been that some of TCC’s engineering students have been hired into co-op positions from the firms that provided the judges. Additionally, articles on the competitions have appeared in local newspapers.

Regional Competitions The TCC Engineering Club next ventured into a regional competition: CANstruction. This is a competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and other engineering organizations. In 2002 the competition was held in 51 cities nationwide, including the Tidewater region. The goal of the competition is for engineering and architectural groups to build structures out of canned and pre-packaged food items that are later donated to the local food bank to help the needy. Participants join in a spirited competition for various awards. TCC has participated for each of the last six years and has won three awards for their entries. One entry

Ezzell, S., & Gordy, P. (2004, June), Energizing Your Engineering Program Through Competitions And Team Based Projects Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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