School of Engineering marks 100 years of Engineering Expo

Hundreds of elementary and secondary school students from around the state and region came to campus for the School of Engineering’s Engineering Expo Feb. 25 and 26. The event marked a century of fun and education this year.

The free annual event and open house challenges students to design and construct projects for use in one of 11 engineering competitions.

“The egg drop competition and pasta bridge competition are two of the traditional favorites,” said Engineering Expo co-chair Megan Ketchum, a junior in chemical engineering from Ottawa. “Students of any age can have fun with those. Anybody can design a way to try to keep an egg safe during a one-story drop, or see how much weight a bridge of pasta will support. Plus, breaking a pasta bridge is really fun.”

In addition to the competitions for K-12 students, the public viewed student organization displays and demonstrations, and several professors’ labs were open for tours. Engineering Student Council officers also gave a presentation at the Lied Center.

Two new competitions made their debut at the 2011 Expo. Students in aerospace engineering sponsored a competition to design the most efficient wind turbine. And KU’s chemistry department and Chemistry Club took part in their first Engineering Expo in several years by hosting a competition that challenged high school students to design a biodiesel fuel with the highest energy content.

Also new to Expo this year was Engineering Week, or E-Week. Organizers planned a weeklong series of competitions for KU students on campus to coincide with National Engineers Week. It included a scavenger hunt, paper airplane challenge and window painting.

In addition to creating, developing and innovating new devices at this year’s Expo, visitors had the chance to see the rich history of the event. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the School of Engineering’s first Expo in 1911. To commemorate the centennial, historical photos, newspaper clippings and other items were displayed in the Eaton Hall atrium.

“We’re trying to incorporate some of the older Expo themes, with new ideas as well,” said Ketchum. “We hope to bridge history and the future. One of the most interesting things people can see is a photo of a model of Lawrence that the civil engineering department constructed some time in the 1950s. It was about the size of a room,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum said the event has evolved over the years. In its early days, Expo was a parade through campus, with different engineering disciplines constructing floats with their latest innovations and competing for best display.

Campus closeup
Sarah Seguin, assistant professor of electrical engineering
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