Thirteen interdisciplinary teams of University of Houston engineering students showed up in the Engineering Commons on a Friday morning this fall with no idea what they were going to be asked to do.
At 8 a.m., each team was handed a bag of "stuff," a list of rules and guidelines, and one hour to work at their respective tables. Using only the materials provided, they were instructed to design, construct, and test a device that would travel 10 feet under its own power toward a predetermined target.
This Impromptu Design Competition, sponsored by the UH Cullen College of Engineering, was coordinated in part by Professor Richard Bannerot. "I wanted the competition to be a fun time of team interaction to increase class camaraderie," says Bannerot. Teams of three or four students were drawn from a senior Capstone Design course required for all undergraduate majors in Electrical and Computer, Mechanical, and Industrial Engineering.
Diana Harmouch (ECE), Jamie Hicke (MECE), and Thomas Yonley (ECE) were awarded first prize. Four other teams were recognized for overall placement and particular Figures of Merit. Special Recognition was given to the team that "lapped the field" on Figure of Merit. The students stayed in teams they formed during their semester project for the course.
Each team put its device through four official runs for a panel of judges. The object was for the device to come to rest within 10 inches of the target, located 10 feet from the starting line. All systems, materials, and tools were impounded after the allotted hour of construction.
A Figure of Merit was assigned based on specific criteria: lightweight support structure, heavy and slow moving device, close finishing proximity to the target, fast assembly and testing time. Success was measured by a team's number of successful runs. In case of ties, the assigned Figures of Merit was used to determine the final standings
Prizes, provided by the Cullen College of Engineering Development Office, were awarded in class. The Capstone Design course will conduct a poster presentation of this semester's thirteen projects in the Engineering Commons on Dec. 5 and 6.
The public Final Testing for all projects designed and built in the sophomore design class, MECE 2361-Design I, will be held in the Engineering Commons, Nov. 4, at 5:30 p.m.