Take a walk through EOH

03/25/2015

This year’s Engineering Open House definitely lived up to its standards of being cool, innovative, and jam-packed.  Let me walk you through some of what I saw during the two days.

In ECEB I came upon a homemade photo booth. There was a camera connected to a laptop and placed on top of a bunch of mirrors with lights around them. The camera, lights, and laptop were wired into a circuit with two metal plates in a mat on the floor. To use the photo booth, you simply stood in front of the mirrors and completed the circuit by touching both plates at once (or having one person each touch one plate, and then also touch each other). When the circuit was completed, the lights flashed and the photo booth app (already open on the laptop) took a picture.

Then I went to Newmark and made a concrete coaster using Pavemend, a quick-setting concrete used for permanent repairs. When mixed with water, elements in Pavemend react and heat up, causing the entire mixture to harden. I put stickers face down in a petri dish coated in Vaseline, then mixed the Pavemend and water in a ziplock bag. I poured the hot wet concrete into the dish over the stickers and had me a nicely decorated table coaster in half an hour. While in Newmark I also simulated an earthquake by jumping on a stomp pad that translated the downward force from my jumps into seismic readings, and I got to see the American Society of Civil Engineers’ concrete canoe (in progress). They actually compete in rowing each year using a canoe of their own design built out of a special concrete mixture.

Then came the Jerry Sanders Design Competition in Kenney Gym. I watched three robots try to play golf. “Allllllright,” the announcer said, “let’s get the robots into the ring so we can start the game. Mwa ha ha!” Yep.

On to MEL, where I watched a boy fly a quadrotor with his mind. The quadrotor was tied to a table so that it wouldn’t go anywhere once it took off.  The boy wore a headpiece like a crown with nodes that sat on his forehead, and a projector showed readings from the headpiece on the screen.  As he sat looking at the quadrotor, it turned on and hovered in the air. Increases in activity picked up by the headpiece corresponded to the quadrotor flying at higher power. When he got distracted, it stopped.

In Engineering Hall I landed a paper plane on a subscale naval runway at the Boeing exhibit; watched magnets build diamond patterns in ferrofluids; saw oobleck (the non-Newtonian fluid made of cornstarch and water) dance around on a speaker- while the speaker was on, the oobleck formed a blob shape and bounced in time with the vibrations. When the speaker was off, the oobleck oozed back into liquid.

In the Transportation Building I got a 3D scan of my face, which can be the first step in printing a 3D model (another option is to do a 3D drawing on engineering software). Ever wonder how they print objects with holes or negative spaces, like for example a hollow sphere? A different plastic material is used to fill in the empty spaces while the object is being printed.  This provides structure during the printing process for the layers that ultimately go above/over an empty space.  When the print is complete, the object is put in a chemical bath that dissolves the filler plastic, leaving you with your complete model.

At my last stop, Loomis, I learned one way to make those squishy pearls they put in bubble tea: take some juice, put it one drop at a time into a mineral solution, and stir.  At the exhibit the students made them out of Kool-Aid.

And if all this wasn’t enough, there was also the Tesla Coil concert on the night of Friday the 13th.  There were two coils side by side that could discharge into the air or onto each other, depending on the strength of the electricity going through them.  As each song played, the two coils played the melody line. You could literally see the notes being played because each sound came with discharges of electricity. The idea behind playing music throughthe coils is that the electricity in each has a specific frequency, which corresponds to a wavelength. By adjusting the frequency to be higher or lower, you can change the wavelength of the current and ultimately change the pitch of the “lightning” coming out of the coils. The end result is that you get a buzzing, electric note, and by giving each coil a different frequency, you can have two harmonizing notes.

When the guy doing the show would stand between the coils, tendrils of electricity touched him all over without causing any harm. However, at one point he held up a plank of wood, and when the lightning touched it, it caught on fire.

Songs from the set list included the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Radioactive, Gangnam Style (Psy danced in the lightning), Dueling Banjos (from Deliverance), the Star Wars theme (Darth Vader came out and battled the lightning with a light saber), Shake it Off, the Super Mario and Super Smash Bros themes, and some student-submitted original compositions.

Congrats to all who participated on a great Open House!

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A balsa wood tower at the earthquake station.
A balsa wood tower at the earthquake station.

Bubble tea pearls made out of Kool-Aid.
Bubble tea pearls made out of Kool-Aid.

This quadrotor is flying using a signal powered by brainwaves instead of a conventional transmitter.
This quadrotor is flying using a signal powered by brainwaves instead of a conventional transmitter.

Students gathered along the Boneyard to see the Tesla coil concert.
Students gathered along the Boneyard to see the Tesla coil concert.

The discharge from the Tesla coils lit wood on fire.
The discharge from the Tesla coils lit wood on fire.