Engineering on the fly wins team a spot at Canadian Engineering Competition

(Edmonton) In one of the best showings ever by a school at the Western Engineering Competition, three University of Alberta teams have qualified for the national finals.

The senior design and innovative design teams finished first in their respective categories, while the impromptu debate team came in second. All three won the right to represent the U of A at the Canadian Engineering Competition, held in Montréal from March 10–13.

Edmond Chen, fifth-year mechanical engineering student and member of the senior design team, said their victory came as a surprise.

“We thought we had a good chance for second or third place, but they announced those and we thought, ‘well, we did our best.’ Then they announced first as the U of A and we jumped out of our seats.”

The senior design team was tasked with building a vehicle that could perform a number of farm tasks, including moving a marshmallow hay bale, moving dirt, climbing a hill while avoiding obstacles, and competing in an autonomous “chuck wagon” race. They had eight hours on the first day of the competition to build, design and present their vehicles to a panel of judges. The second day saw them competing in the challenges.

“It was really close,” said Peter Roland, fourth-year ECE student and senior design team member. “There were a lot of good teams with good designs. In the end it probably came down to presentations.”

For their presentation, the team decided to focus on the design process, rather than the final design of their vehicle. Realizing everyone was working from the same parts, and that their vehicles would all be similar in design, they drew on the problems that arose and influenced the changes they made throughout the competition. And there certainly were problems.

“We scrapped three designs,” Roland said.

“We improved upon them,” Chen added. “We built on our initial design a lot as the competition went on, and that ended up being what our presentation focused on.”

With the victory under their belt, the team is now catching up on missed school work and preparing for CEC next month. They’ll be presented with a similar challenge—building a robotic vehicle that performs certain tasks—but they’ll be up against fierce competition and vying for cash prizes.

But the prize money would just be icing on the cake if the team wins, said Chen.

“Most of us just do it for the bragging rights. It’s the only national engineering competition run by students, so it’s a big deal to win.”

Congratulations to all of the teams who qualified for CEC:

·         First Place, Senior Design – Edmond Chen, Nurichi Guseynov, Rachelle Neame, Peter Roland

·         First Place, Innovative Design – Allen Feng, Kenton Hamaluik, Andrew Kan, Jordan Leung

·         Second Place, Impromptu Debate – Sarah-Jane Laxdal, Steve Cook