February 05, 2006

Annual Engineering Day set for Feb. 23

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Turning a pop bottle into a rocket and firing away should provide a lot more "bang" for Southern Illinois University Carbondale's annual Engineering Day than dropping eggs off a two-story building.

Though the egg drop is a long-standing tradition, "the students didn't care for it because it wasn't that exciting," said SIUC graduate student Scott P. Nance, president of the campus chapter of Tau Beta Pi, a national engineering honor society, which will supervise the rocket launch. In addition, the egg drop created "a huge mess."

"We talked it over and came up with this."

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the rocket launch and other Engineering Day events, which run concurrently from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23 in the SIUC Engineering Building.

The rocket launch is just one of a suite of "Mind Games" taking place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in the SIUC Engineering Building. The ever-popular mini-robot maneuvers, paper airplane competition and playing-card construction project are back this year. Students also will build drinking-straw bridges, construct and race balloon-powered hovercraft, practice precision pacing and pan for gold, and select groups of students will learn circuit design.

The idea for the rocket launch came from an episode on the Discovery Channel's MythBusters show in which the Mythbusters team tried — and failed — to use pop bottle power to propel a person into the air, Nance said.

"Personally, I think the launch pad was not correctly designed," he added.

Tau Beta Pi members have built the launch pad that will be used in the SIUC games. Rockets will consist of two-liter pop bottles, outfitted with fins and nose cones. Using Newton's three laws of motion, contestants will have to calculate how much water to add to their rockets and how to stabilize them.

"Too much water and you blow out and lose pressure," Nance said. "Not enough and you don't have enough force to lift off."

The Tau Beta Pis will then pump air into the bottles to pressurize them and launch them at a 45-degree angle.

"We didn't have an adequate way to measure altitude, so we're going for distance," Nance said. The rocket that shoots the furthest wins.

Organizers expect between 400 and 500 students from the region's high schools to take part in the Mind Games, which aim to introduce teens to engineering concepts in an entertaining way.

Engineering Week also includes question-answer sessions with SIUC student design teams on student-built projects including a Formula SAE racecar, hovercraft, moon buggy and steel bridge.

For more information, call the engineering college at 618/453-4321 or log on to the Web site at http://www.engr.siu.edu/engrweek/index.html.

Reaching out is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.