Engineers build excitement

With midterms in full swing and spring break just around the corner, many Yalies may be too distracted to notice the excitement coming from Science Hill in honor of National Engineering Week.

Director of Advancement for the Engineering Department Bridget Calendo said the goal of Engineering Week is to publicize engineering and its contributions to society. The Yale Engineering Department is celebrating National Engineering Week with numerous symposia, guest lectures and a faculty trivia bowl this Friday as the focal event. The “Jeopardy”-style trivia tournament represents an unprecedented collaborative effort between engineering faculty and students, said Daniel Wiznia ’06, cofounder of the Yale Engineering Design Team, an umbrella organization intended to supplement class theory with hands-on research experience.

“Yale has a fantastic engineering department that some circles on Yale’s liberal arts campus may not give due credit,” said YEDT cofounder James Salzano ’06, who said he will host the tournament. “Having a faculty trivia tournament may help familiarize people with the engineering faculty, and maybe people who aren’t engineers will be able to see what engineering is all about. We want to take the mystique out of it — it’s about problem solving and improving people’s lives. Its not necessarily a guy, or girl, sitting in a room plugging numbers into a calculator.”

Salzano and Wiznia both said they do not remember the Engineering Department celebrating Engineering Week in the past, and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemical Engineering Michael Loewenberg said this is the first time he remembers Engineering Week being noted at Yale.

“I can’t remember anything as detailed or involved as the trivia bowl ever being done in the past,” said Mitchell Smooke, DUS of Mechanical Engineering.

But Elona Vaisnys, editor for the Faculty of Engineering, said Yale has sponsored various events over the past decades in recognition of National Engineering Week. Such events have included working with local libraries to expand their engineering collections and taking engineering majors into local high schools to talk about what they are studying, Vaisnys said.

This year, Calendo said, the focus is more on strengthening relationships within the Engineering Department as well as increasing public awareness about engineering throughout campus.

“Within the Engineering Department itself, we’re very segregated based on discipline,” she said. “If nothing more, it’s time to strengthen our internal community and create some cohesive ties. Yale is primarily known from the strength of its humanities and arts, so recognizing engineers and how they contribute to society is important for both the internal and external community. Today, engineers do more than build bridges – they’re doing things for medicine, the environment and things important to public health.”

Jonathan Hartman ’09, a member of the YEDT and the student committee involved with planning Friday’s trivia tournament, said he wanted to find a way to emphasize the engineering curriculum in an innovative way.

“The YEDT and Engineering Department wants to show the fun side of engineering, and let non-engineering students know that we’re not just about studying and classroom theory,” Hartman said.

Examples of this lighter side of engineering, Hartman said, include current YEDT-sponsored projects to build autonomous model helicopters, a solar-powered boat, and a Chevrolet Suburban fueled by vegetable oil.

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