Hovercraft and cable machines tested in engineering design competitions

Hovercraft will race across the floor and cable-suspended inventions will travel through the air at the UBC Okanagan Gymnasium next Wednesday (April 11), as the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering holds its second-annual student challenge -- the Engineering Design Awards.

Wednesday morning, second-year Engineering Two students will be displaying and racing hovercraft they have developed over the past term studying fluid dynamics with Professor Emeritus Sander Calisal, and solid mechanics with Asst. Professor Dr. Rudolf Seethaler.

"Nine teams of students will demonstrate how they have integrated the knowledge from these two courses into a project," says Dr. Seethaler. "They're looking for optimum designs with the right shape, dimensions and structure."

The craft are made primarily from balsa wood and range in size from half a metre to one metre across. Judges from the School of Engineering faculty and local industry will be checking a variety of criteria, including how quickly the craft manage a straight-course, how they maneuver around pylons in an obstacle course, and how much weight they can carry at best speed.

Straight-track races will be held from 9:10 to 9:35 a.m., with obstacle-course racing from 9:40 to 10:30 a.m. Structural testing and team presentations to judges take place from 9:50 to 11:45 a.m.

Then it's on to the Engineering One class for the afternoon competition. This year, students have been challenged in their Engineering Fundamentals course to develop machines that can transport a two-pound weight from one pedestal to another while traveling like a cable-car along a cable sloping from the gym's upper mezzanine gallery to the gym floor nearly 6 metres below. The gravity-powered machines must pick up the weight from one pedestal and place it on another as they traverse the 30 metres between the cable's elevated start and floor-level end points.

In their introduction to engineering this year, Engineering One students have learned about many aspects of the engineering profession -- design, planning, teamwork, professional ethics, and much more, says Assoc. Professor Dr. Andrew Labun, who devised the cable machine challenge. "During the year in classes they learn about these topics and apply them in this project," he notes. "We hope it makes what students have learned all the more real for them."

Presentations by student teams and static displays of the machines start at 1 p.m., with the cable machine competition running from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

All are welcome to attend the competitions throughout the day.

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