Engineers Day Brings Record Crowd, Competition, and NASA to The Hill

University of Tennessee alumnus Barry Wilmore delivers and address to a packed Cox Auditorium crowd to kick of Engineers Day 2014 at UT on Thursday, Oct. 23.

Alumnus Barry Wilmore delivers and address to a packed Cox Auditorium crowd to kick of Engineers Day 2014 on Thursday, October 23.

The College of Engineering’s annual Engineers Day festivities brought a sea of high school students from around the state to campus on Thursday, 1,700 to be exact.

That number—which includes 250 students who made the trek from Memphis—easily surpassed the previous record of 1,200, set just last year.

“Seeing this much enthusiasm, from this many students, and knowing they came from all corners of the state is a great testament to what we do here in the College of Engineering and for the future of our college,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the college. “To have more than 1,700 students make the trip here and really throw themselves into the competitions and sessions is a great example of what UT can offer.”

A taped welcoming address from NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore kicked things off for the 100-plus years-old event, where demonstrations, games, food, and fun served as the backdrop for a “getting to know you” session between the students and the college.

Lenoir City High School's Graham Denton describes the wind turbine that he and Rebecca Schuster built for an Engineers Day competition at UT.

Lenoir City High School’s Graham Denton describes the wind turbine that he and Rebecca Schuster built for an Engineers Day competition.

The speech by Wilmore, who earned his master’s degree in aviation systems from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering at UT’s Space Institute campus in 1994, was such a popular draw that a spillover room was made available for viewing after Cox Auditorium quickly reached its capacity.

Students were then able to choose from a number of competitions and demonstrations.

One of the biggest hits of the day was the egg drop, held in the Min H. Kao Engineering Building, where teams took their pre-built designs to the fourth floor of the building and dropped them at a target in a lobby area below.

While many designs succeeded, the most common seemed to be affixing some form of parachute to the delivery device.

Rockwood High School students Shelley Edwards, in pink, Josh Spurling, in black shirt at back, and Terez Templin, in blue, watch as their wooden bridge is tested during an Engineers Day competition. Their bridge safely passed the 55 pound mark, making it all the way up to 85 pounds before showing signs of cracking.

Rockwood High School students Shelley Edwards, in pink, Josh Spurling, in black shirt at back, and Terez Templin, in blue, watch as their wooden bridge is tested during an Engineers Day competition. Their bridge safely passed the 55 pound mark, making it all the way up to 85 pounds before showing signs of cracking.

Also in Min Kao, teams presented their best ideas for wind-powered turbines. Some chose fan-type designs, but at least a few teams stretched the boundaries of their imaginations with designs including plastic bags, wooden rulers, even spoons.

Elsewhere, students brought their best wooden bridge designs to the John D. Tickle Engineering Building, where they were first judged on a number of criteria before being placed in a de facto stress test.

Harriman High School students Autumn Dayton, left, and Hayle Moore show off their successful design for the Engineers Day egg drop—a hollowed out Nerf football.

Harriman High School students Autumn Dayton, left, and Hayle Moore show off their successful design for the Engineers Day egg drop—a hollowed out Nerf football.

Bridges were considered to have passed if they withstood 55 pounds of pressure, with a number of teams making it even past 70 pounds.

The Tickle Building was also the site for the driving simulator, which proved to be especially popular with students and at one point had a line stretching the width of the building.

Ferris Hall housed demonstrations involving food-powered batteries and radiation shielding, while the Science and Engineering Research Facility played host to the quiz bowl competition.

In addition to the events, several booths were set up in the lawn between Ferris and Perkins Halls, offering everything from information on clubs and financial aid to food and games.

Houston High School's Brandon Hong raises his hands in the air in celebration after his team won he Engineers Day quiz bowl.

Houston High School’s Brandon Hong raises his hands in the air in celebration after his team won the Engineers Day quiz bowl.