Engineering Expo ’11 Mystifies and Motivates

Welding demonstration at EE11

Visitors felt the heat and saw the flash of flame as they learned about past and current welding techniques in the Materials Science & Engineering Building. Note the student’s fire-protective jacket.

Every two years, College of Engineering students, staff and faculty, along with industry sponsors, give elementary and high school students a glimpse into the work—and play—of engineers. Engineering Expo ’11 (EE11), held April 14-16 on the College of Engineering campus, featured keynote talks by three UW-Madison alumnae currently working at NASA and involved in the International Space Station and Space Shuttle programs.

Amid shouts of “wow,” “awesome” and “hey, try this,” young faces were fixed in concentration as they stopped by more than 40 exhibits, most with hands-on (or in one case, feet-on) experience.

“We are preparing a new generation of engineers to confront a host of global issues we could not have imagined a few years ago, “ said Paul Peercy, dean of the College of Engineering. “We as a country—and as a college—need to see more talented  young people take on the challenges of pursuing an education and careers in engineering and science. We must foster excitement for these fields early on in students and sustain that interest from elementary school through college.”

Excitement was definitely fostered during the State Robotics Competition, which pitted robots built and controlled by area high school teams. Students, parents and teachers from schools around the state also saw a demonstration of historical metal forging along with modern welding processes. Someday, people may travel to Engineering Expo on a levitating train similar to the model on display propelled by energy- efficient superconducting magnets.

State Robotics Competition at EE11

As fans nervously watched their favorites, robots picked up tennis balls, carried them up ramps and deposited them in holes for points in the State Robotics Competition. The robots, built by area high school teams, were allowed to block and push.

UW-Madison College of Engineering students compete in a number of national and international competitions throughout the school year. The UW Steel Bridge Team, AIAA-UW X-Hab/Zero-G/Rocket Teams, Badger Pulling Team, SAE Clean Snowmobile Team, Concrete Canoe Team and Formula SAE Team exhibited their award-winning entries and explained the College’s many opportunities to join design and performance teams.

EE11 is planned, organized and managed entirely by UW-Madison engineering students. They staff the exhibits and demonstrations explaining often complex concepts and connecting with younger students.

This year’s industry sponsors included Bemis Company, Inc., FedEx SmartPost, The Kohler Company, ATC American Transmission Company, BP, Cargill, Deere & Company, Oshkosh Corporation, Prairie Technologies, Schlumberger, designconcepts, Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing and Microsoft Corporation.