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First year engineering students showcase projects, new skills at design day

sorting hat
Bo Blower

Organize 1,371 first year NC State engineering students into 334 teams charged with creating a unique design using less than $40, and a little chaos is sure to abound. But so are plenty of creative devices — like a sorting hat from Harry Potter that “sorts” people into majors, or a Wolfpack baseball-themed pinball game.

Inside the College of Engineering’s 19th annual First Year Engineering Design Day (FEDD), the student designers seemed as wide-eyed and interested in everyone’s projects as the parents and K-12 students invited to the event. Students shot at targets with GE precision launchers while others raced hovercrafts or floated concrete canoes. In between talking to volunteer judges about their displays, NC State engineering students roamed around the room, excited about what their classmates had created.

“We can check out all the other projects, check out all the other innovations they have. The music machines are really cool. It’s very cool to see different projects, different ideas come together,” said Sam Idil, a member of the Bo-Blower team that made a bubble blower.

Every year, on the last day of classes before Thanksgiving, engineering students enrolled in E101 – Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving, show off their projects at the McKimmon Center during two FEDD sessions that feature 21 different displays and competitions.

Idil and his teammates, Charlie Moody and Kasimir Shulz, focused on the portable aspect of their bubble blower, housing their battery-powered device in a Carolina Panthers Bojangles tailgate box they pulled out of recycling.

“It’s portable instead of having to be plugged in — and the Bo Box drives that home,” Moody said.

Nearby the bubble blowers, the animatronics display drew crowds to be “sorted” into their major by the Slytherengineers’ sorting hat. Elsewhere, students and guests tried their hands at old-school arcade games or cheered on friends as they tested their waterproof bags or collapsible bridges.

But amidst the camaraderie, students still focused on a healthy competition. Nicole Worth, a member of Team C Level, said she thought it was interesting that throughout the semester, nobody within their category talked to each other about what they were doing.

Her teammates agreed, saying that FEDD was the first time they’d seen the other teams’ educational computer games. Worth, along with Jeremy Jump, Dominic Sapoch and Manali Shirsekar, created the game H2O to help fifth graders learn about the water cycle. The game features four levels, including one that involves Tetris, as students move through each step of the cycle.

Jump already owned the software GameMaker, so most of their $40 went to the display. His teammates also got hands-on experience with coding.

“My intended major is mechanical engineering, and since I didn’t have any prior knowledge, I’ve been able to basically learn the basics of coding and GameMaker through the help of my teammates,” Sapoch said.

Those are the skills — the hands-on learning, creative thinking, team work and quick problem-solving — that students will carry with them beyond FEDD as they continue their engineering education. But if they were on a winning team that received a t-shirt to prove it, that’s a pretty nice bonus they’ll get to carry with them, too.