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CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

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UH Engineering Students Take Second in Regional Design Competition

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By: 

Krista Kuhl
Freshman engineering design team Marie Politte, Sheresa Burkey, Mauricio Salto and Crystal Ibarra, from the PROMES section of ENGI 1100, won second place in the Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference design competition.  Photo compliments of Julie Trenor.
Freshman engineering design team Marie Politte, Sheresa Burkey, Mauricio Salto and Crystal Ibarra, from the PROMES section of ENGI 1100, won second place in the Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference design competition. Photo compliments of Julie Trenor.

A team of four freshman engineering students won second place in the Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference (TREC) design competition on February 10th. TREC, founded in 2001 by the Student Engineers Council at Texas A&M University, is an inter- collegiate engineering design competition that provides students with an opportunity to develop teamwork and leadership skills, as well as network with corporate sponsors.

Freshmen engineering students Sheresa Burkey (CE), Crystal Ibarra (CE), Marie Politte (ME) and Mauricio Salto(CE) took second place in the competition, beating out 25 teams from four other universities, including Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, and Louisiana State University.

During the competition, the students had to solve an open-ended design challenge using a limited set of materials. Students had to “purchase” items from the competition organizers to build a water craft that could finish an obstacle course. Teams were awarded points based on minimizing cost, weight, and completion time of the obstacle course. The materials students had available to complete the project were everyday materials such as rubber bands, bubble wrap, Velcro, popsicle sticks, batteries, Alka-Seltzer, plastic cups, and radio controlled-cars.

In all, five teams represented the Cullen College of Engineering at the competition—four freshman teams who completed ENGI 1100 in the Fall 2006 semester, and one team from the Fall 2005 ENGI 1100 Honors section. ENGI 1100 is project-based introduction to engineering course developed by Instructional Assistant Professor Julie Trenor, to give first-year students the opportunity to do hands-on, open-ended design work during their first semester in the Cullen College of Engineering. Trenor piloted the Fall 2005 course, which was expanded to four sections in Fall 2006 and included participation from PROMES Director Kathy Zerda and Adam Capitano, also instructional assistant professors for the college. The placing team from CCoE represented the PROMES (Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies) section of the course.

“There was such a demand for ENGI 1100 that we had to offer two honors sections this fall and two additional sections for PROMES this year,” said Trenor.

The type of challenges the students completed at the TREC competition were very similar to the “MacGyver” projects that have become the hallmark of the ENGI 1100 course. These projects require students to complete a design challenge where they must design and build something to meet the project specifications using only the materials given to them in their “MacGyver” boxes.

“It’s very gratifying to see that the design, team-work and open-ended thinking skills students are developing in the ENGI 1100 are preparing them to successfully work on engineering teams,” said Trenor. “For two years in a row, ENGI 1100 freshmen have competed with upper-division students from other top universities and won. That tells me that what we’re doing here in the Cullen College of Engineering is working.”

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