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November 7, 2002 National Engineering Week: fun, creativity and ingenuity



Four young women test their parachute before dropping an egg. Left to right are Dianna Lafrenière (Queen of Angels Academy), Nan Hai (Centennial Academy), Allison Kennedy (QAA) and Andrea Blotsky (QAA).

Boffo bridge with ethnic edge: Craig Seibel and Charles Kenney, members of My Big Fat Greek Bridge team from Ryerson University, work on their entry for the bridge building competition. Their bridge received top honours.

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Mirjana Vrbaski

What do you get by mixing popsicle sticks, dental floss, glue and an occasional beer? Any Canadian engineering student last week might have answered: a bridge, of course!

Concordia’s 19th Annual Bridge Building Competition, open to students from across Canada (and the world) was just the climax of the National Engineering Week, held March 2 to 7.

The Week, launched in 1993 by the Engineering and Computer Science Association (ECA), hosts a series of events, each one an opportunity for current and aspiring students to meet, learn, and exchange ideas.

One of such events was Women in Engineering Conference, held March 3 for female high school and CEGEP students wishing to explore their future in the field.

“In recent years, women have shown real enthusiasm towards engineering,” said Associate Dean Terry Fancott. “An increasing number are finding it to be a fascinating profession.”

Twenty years ago, things may have been different, but Hany Moustapha, manager of technology and technical education at Pratt & Whitney Canada, said that “women are now becoming increasingly appreciated in the discipline.” The number of female students in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science has reached 25 per cent.

Nancy Paliotti, undergraduate student and president of the Concordia Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation, student division, said, “We have a different aspect to offer — people skills, which is what engineering has been in need of.”

With that encouragement, conference attendees tested their abilities in some fun activities, like building miniature bridges and designing insulation for an egg-drop competition.

Throughout the week, students were able to attend seminars and view exhibits organized by the various departments of the faculty. While some examined student projects, others attended workshops, tutorials and lectures.

Engineering Week events, like the kick-off hockey game between students and teachers were lessons in one of the cornerstones of engineering: teamwork.

This year’s Bridge Building Competition attracted 36 undergraduate and graduate teams from close to 15 Canadian universities, who showed off their miniature bridges, masterfully constructed from popsicle sticks, toothpicks, dental floss and glue.

To design and construct their bridges, teams respected specific measurements. Then they assembled them, only to see them destroyed by The Crusher, a computerized machine, which applied up to 10,000-pound loads to test the bridges’ durability.

While The Crusher evaluated each group’s work, the opposing teams cheered, booed, and sledge-hammered their own creations after the crushing.

Although cash prizes of up to $1,000 were an incentive, most students were there simply for the experience (and the free beer!).