Rock paper scissors and sickle cells: Highlights from EOH
The 2017 Engineering Open House continued the standard set by its successful predecessors, showcasing new projects and bringing back old favorites and staples for a total of over 200 exhibits.
One of the projects exhibited in MEL by ASME was a spirograph, a simple machine that uses gears and a lever arm to draw a mathematical pattern on paper. There was also a pulley system connected to a chair that allowed volunteers to hoist themselves into the air by pulling on a rope while sitting.
Some MechSE students displayed their design projects, the goal of which was to build robots that could walk fifteen meters in under three minutes. A robotic hand set on a table used a computer interface to play rock paper scissors with participants.
Outside MEL was a display of the Illini Hyperloop team’s prototype.
Nearby on the engineering quad were regular demonstrations by the Illini Society of Fire Protection Engineers with the help of the Urbana Fire Department.
The demos compared damage inflicted by fire on a room with a smoke detector and sprinkler system in place versus an unprotected room. The unprotected room was completely engulfed in flames in less than two minutes.
In Talbot Lab, our beloved Southwark-Emery Universal Testing Machine (aka the Crusher) crushed a 3-foot tall, 18-inch diameter concrete pillar that had been cast five months prior by Prairie Materials.
The total load applied at fracture was 2,800,000 pounds, relatively shy of the machine’s 3,000,000-pound limit. The Crusher is accurate to within one tenth of one percent as per the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
DCL hosted many bioengineering-related exhibits, including stem cell research, hydrogels, and the engineering of biobots. One project focused on sickle cell biomechanics, with the goal of identifying physical biomarkers capable of predicting complications resulting from sickle cell disease.
Farther north in Newmark, EOH-goers had the opportunity to make personalized concrete coasters using fast-setting cement.
The chemical composition of the cement affects the time it takes for the concrete to set. Cement that lacks sulfates can harden in less than half an hour. The corresponding exothermic reaction releases heat quickly, causing the finished coasters to feel hot to the touch.
In the Hydrosystems Lab, students used a spillway and rocks to model the temporary solution put in place at the Oroville Dam in California. Engineers in Oroville placed boulders in front of the overflow to minimize erosion on the surrounding hillside. The students’ spillway model demonstrated how similar flow breaks over rocks.
There was also a lazy river model that used rubber duck races to mark the way flow velocity changes around a curve.
A lit punk placed in a wind tunnel illustrated the streaklines of airflow passing over model cars. The vortex pattern, alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise rotation and created by turbulent flow behind the cars, could also be seen with the help of the smoke.
Friday night held the annual tesla coil concert on the quad. The coils set wood on fire and exploded balloons filled with gas. A demonstrator wearing a Faraday suit and standing on the coils’ insulated floor was able to safely interact with the high frequency, high voltage discharges.
The set list included a shout out to the Cubs’ world series victory, Best Day of My Life (American Authors), Radioactive (MGMT), Shake It Off (Taylor Swift), the Super Mario Bros theme, Pop Corn (Hot Butter), Gangnam Style (Psy), and the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Special thank you to assistant Lauren Kovanko.