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Published: Monday, 2/17/2003

Engineering fair at UT geared toward children

Connor Kapperman, 9, of Weston and Jeff Holda, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toledo, work on a model plane during the Technorama Fair at UT. Connor Kapperman, 9, of Weston and Jeff Holda, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toledo, work on a model plane during the Technorama Fair at UT.
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It wasn't pretty, but 13-year-old Eric Richards' airplane flew far and high enough across Nitschke Hall that he walked away with a T-shirt at yesterday's Technorama Fair at the University of Toledo.

The competition was among the afternoon activities at the College of Engineering complex at Westwood and Oakwood avenues to kick off UT's celebration of National Engineers Week.

Eric, of Ottawa Hills, and other youngsters, with the help of their parents and engineering students, were free to cut and accessorize the rubber band-powered airplanes, offering the opportunity to consider the aerodynamics that allow planes to fly.

It was a lesson in experimentation, design, and lots of trial and error. Some trimmed pieces of wood from the wings and fuselage. Others glued on extra paper to expand the size and shape of the wings. Eric attributed his success to flipping the wings upside down.

He said he believes the adjustment gave his airplane more lift. ``I flipped the wings upside down. That way, it holds more air under the wings,” he said.

Dr. Nagi Naganathan, interim dean of the college of engineering, said he hopes the fair offers people outside the university an opportunity to learn about engineering and what's available at the college.

``Even if only one or two kids get interested in engineering and when they walk away have gained a little more knowledge, I think we have made a contribution to society,” Dr. Naganathan said.

The event included displays and exhibits from the bioengineering, chemical and environmental, civil, electrical and computer science, manufacturing, mechanical, and industrial engineering departments.

Dr. Naganathan said a similar program to showcase the college had been held annually until it was discontinued in 1994.

Dan Lucas, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, was among the students helping to build the rubber-band airplanes. He said he believes youngsters generally don't seem to know that much about engineering, and the airplane experiment allows them to experience its practical side firsthand.

“Engineering can be as complicated as building an engine to as simple as a wood airplane,” Mr. Lucas said.

The weeklong celebration continues today with the Soda-Pop Bottle Rocket Competition in which student teams will use compressed air and water to fly two-liter plastic soda containers.

A splat-egg drop competition will be held tomorrow. Teams of one and two students will test containers protecting eggs they have built, dropping them from successive heights in Nitscke Hall.

On Thursday, bridges constructed from one box of toothpicks, a sheet of paper, Scotch tape, five paperclips, and white glue will be tested to determine which bridge can hold the most pennies.

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