UI's 94th Engineering Open House makes fun easy as pi

UI's 94th Engineering Open House makes fun easy as pi

URBANA — The wind's a little chilly at the Engineering Open House, but the sounds are of Caribbean warmth.

Just north of the Illini Union, the I-Pan Steel Drum Band is playing in a food tent Friday at the University of Illinois event.

Gamers will recognize this tune, a band member says.

"It's Rainbow Mario," says Jenna Wempen, an eighth-grader from Palmer, near Taylorville, who had come to campus to learn about technology and be entertained.

It's further evidence that nerds are the new cool — and it's especially cool to find a major where you can pay off your student loans soon after graduation.

Though there's no reason to suggest that anyone wants to do violence, even of the clowny kind, to future engineers, the "Pie An Engineer" booth is doing very well indeed.

It turns out it's surprisingly difficult to smack an engineer in the face with a shaving-cream pie from 9 feet away.

It costs $1 for a 9-foot pitch, and prices increase if the thrower chooses to get closer. The money raised benefits Habitat for Humanity. (March 14, aka 3/14, was Pi Day.)

One student after another from North Ridge Middle School in Danville falls short of even hitting the target's torso.

Chaperone Phil Jackson of Danville urges the girls to take into account the wind, gravity, distance and power.

In the end, it's a girl from another school who hits the bull's-eye.

Alejandra Montoya, a ninth-grader from Morton East in suburban Cicero, explained that she "angled it perfectly" for every puff of shaving cream to hit its mark.

Engineering Open House, on the north side of campus, and ExplorAces on the south, continue today.

Walking past the Illinois Fire Service Institute's Science of Being An Arsonist exhibit, there's something more powerful than a pie-thrower — rocket races along Boneyard Creek.

The rocks ride on steel cables up to about 300 yards.

"Let 'er rip!" the crowd yells, there's a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! — and two fiberglass rockets race to a photo finish.

Michael Busch, a UI sophomore in aerospace engineering, says working on the rocket project taught him about collaboration and improvisation.

Kyle Pieper, a junior in aerospace engineering, says you might expect the rockets to tie in the race, since they have the same-sized engines, but other factors like variation in the cable mean that there's usually a clear winner.

Gravity doesn't come into play because of the cable, but the students did have to calculate such things as lift, drag and acceleration, Pieper said.

Tom Ruffino, a junior from Peotone, enjoyed the display but says he learned more from one about customizing bikes.

Nearby, the wind turns out to be a help for balsa-wood airplane models.

Inside the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Leal Elementary School third-grader Hank Thomas works a radio-controlled bulldozer, and says he'd like to own the real thing.

In Everitt Laboratory, engineering students make yummy rice snacks on a floating griddle, demonstrating magnetic repulsion as well as heat generated from a coil, says Seth Young, a home-schooled sixth-grader from Argenta.

IF YOU GO

94th annual Engineering Open House

What: More than 250 exhibits related to the science of engineering.
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.
Where: Buildings on the north side of the University of Illinois campus; the welcome tent may be found between Everitt Lab and Engineering Hall.
Information: eoh.ec.illinois.edu.

ExplorACES 2014

What: A variety of exhibits, mini-classes and tours on a variety of subjects, including agricultural studies and food science.
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
Where: Buildings on south side of UI campus. Attendees are urged to begin at the ACES Library, Alumni and Information Center, south of the main Quad.
Information: exploraces.org.

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