the winners are...
for something new to grace the driveway? Forget the popular
SUVs and PT Cruisers. Try instead:
A Vehicle that could ride on the moon.
A dune buggy that flies (well, sort of).
A canoe made of concrete
A race car that crosses the Atlantic.
Formula SAE team members pose at the George Eastman House.
Inventions of the
future? For RIT engineering students, the future is now.
design and construction projects -- hallmarks of an engineering
education at RIT -- help prepare the university's students for
future careers in engineering. Where else but RIT's Kate Gleason
College of Engineering and Applied Science and Technology can
students learn to build and race a moon buggy, a mini-Baja car,
a concrete canoe and a Formula car, all within weeks?
Last spring, for
the first-time ever, a team of 24 RIT students entered the Great
Moon Buggy Race sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville,
After weeks of design
and construction work, students navigated a half-mile simulated
lunar terrain course of craters, rocks, "lunar" soil and "lava"
ridges. They completed two runs on the challenging moonscape
course and, after refining their design based on what they learn,
plan to return to the yearly competition.
RIT's mini-Baja and
concrete canoe teams are more season in annual competitions,
having participated every year since 1997 and 1995 respectively.
of RIT's eclectic mini-Baja team -- comprising not only engineers,
but business, nutrition and pre-med students, as well -- went
to competitions this year in Manhattan, Kan., Montreal and Milwaukee.
Built from the ground
up, two mini-Baja cars from RIT finished near the top in competitions
sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The cars especially
shined in acceleration, braking, endurance, hill-climbing and
But, the cars also
impressed in another criterion of the competitions -- they're
fun to drive. That's clearly evident to everyone who sees the
nimble vehicles, known to "fly" -- or, at least, occasionally
become airborne -- all in the name of good fun and education.
Another area in which
RIT students typically shine is teamwork. Following their final
competition of the year in Milwaukee, the RIT team was honored
with a special award recognizing students' spirit, leadership
and assistance to both the competition organizers and competing
"The mini-Baja gives
students real-world experience working and communicating with
others in a dynamic organization and highly technical environment,"
says Martin Gordon, assistant professor and mini-Baja team advisor.
"It helps each student develop personally and teaches things
that could not have been learned in a classroom alone.
"Employers seek out
students who possess the special ambition and ability that go
along with being part of a major collegiate design competition,
and especially a very successful and highly ranked team," Godron
Expect more top performances
from RIT's mini-Baja team in 2001 and possible first-time entry
in international competition in Brazil.
At least, that's the intention. Fortunately, that was also the
reality for RIT civil engineering technology students at the
13th annual National Concrete Canoe regional competition last
Others weren't so
employ the latest technology they learn in classrooms
and on co-op jobs in designing the advanced components
for these vehicles," says Satish Kandlikar, mechanical
engineering department head. "What these teams are doing
is engineering at its finest."
canoe builders float their boat. (bottom) The mini-Baja
team spins their wheels.
Not that luck has
much to do with it. Try precision engineering expertise learned
at RIT and experience from past competitions.
The annual concrete
canoe challenge has been a staple for RIT civil engineering
students for five years running. RIT won regional competitions
in 1997 and 1998, ranking 10th nationally in '98. RIT hosted
the event in 1997.
Maureen Valentine, concrete canoe team advisor, has witnessed
them all. She says engineering skills aren't the only things
students gain from the endeavor. "Over the years, I've seen
students develop leadership skills, time management skills and
friendships through all of the work it takes to ready a canoe
for competition," she says.
From that experience
and teamwork, coupled with extensive testing, RIT students knew
their canoe would pass muster. meanwhile, some crafts from competing
universities flipped over and split in half.
When all was said
and done (and the cement had dried), RIT's seven-member team
paddled to a seventh-place finish at the American Society of
Civil Engineers-sponsored event. They'll be back in the water
again next spring.
Adds Bob Easton,
civil engineering technoloy professor, "The concrete canoe competition
challenges students to be analytical, innovative and creative
in attaining a seemingly improbably goal."
engineering project receiving the most "oohs" and "aahs" is
the Formula car. And for good reason -- RIT took first place
in the international Formula competition in England in 1999.
Oh, and the car is fast!
70 horsepower engine and six-speed transmission on the RIT car
allow it to zoom from zero to 60 miles an hour in a stingy four
seconds. That's not a typical Sunday drive.
Nor is it a typical
"college campus cruise" -- on a Sunday, or any day of the week.
But that's exactly what bystanders -- some a little startled,
others a little in awe -- witnessed as students took this year's
car for its first public test drive on RIT campus sidewalks,
a spring tradition at the university.
Two weeks later,
in the team's first competition of the year in Pontiac, Mich.,
RIT took top honors in engineering and presentation categories,
fourth place in acceleration testing and sixth place in autocross
competition, finishing 14th overall among more than 100 other
Next, students leaped
the Atlantic to defend their championship at international competition
in Birmingham, England. RIT's 30-member team fared well, taking
top honors in autocross and design categories, second place
in skid-pad inspection and third place in acceleration testing.
Overall, RIT cam ein sixth place among teams from more than
30 colleges and universities.
RIT students will
compete for the first time at the Formula SAE Australasia in
Victoria, Australia, in December.
About 30 RIT students,
participate each year in design and construction of a sleek-looking,
fast-driving Formula race car. RIT student build every component
of the racer -- making it unique from other cars in the competition,
most of which have prefabricated brakes and suspension systems.
the latest technology they learn in classrooms and on co-op
jobs in designing the advanced components for these vehicles,"
says Satish Kandlikar, mechanical engineering department head,
about the Formula car and moon buggy, both supported by his
department. "What these teams are doing is engineering at its
Annual Formula competitions
are sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.,/p>
Be it by land or
by see (well, make that pond in the case of the concrete canoe),
or pretend moon dust, RIT engineering students have unique opportunities
to learn by doing. And, more often than not, they taste the
thrill of victory.
The future is now
for RIT's hard-working students.