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With race day fast approaching, teams of first-year mechanical engineering students completed test runs Friday with senior mentors to fine-tune battery-powered cars as part of their freshman design course.
In “ME1010,” Introduction to Mechanical Engineering, teams aimed to achieve the fastest course completion time on the second floor of Stocker Center without crashing – most accomplished it in five seconds to one minute.
Seniors pair with the underclassmen for mentoring on teamwork, leadership and design.
Department Chair Greg Kremer said the freshman course was created to engage first-year students early with engineering and get them excited for their senior projects while fostering community building.
“The freshmen get to vicariously experience these bigger projects, to get an idea of the excitement of mechanical engineering, while at the same time seniors give them practical advice on their simpler projects,” Kremer said. “The objective is really that sense of being a part of something. The freshmen want to be engineers, and they’ll feel like they’re going to be supported in that and be successful.”
For Madelyn Thomas, a freshman from Pomeroy, Ohio, who wants to work for Chevrolet or General Motors one day, the car design project was a perfect fit.
“I think it’s a good freshman project because it really helps us get into engineering,” Thomas said. “I had so much fun doing this. I’d like to do it forever.”
Designing a car from scratch produced a range of different designs – and just as many challenges to improve them. Freshman Malik Robertson’s group attached a wheel and spool to a block of wood, putting the motor on the spool to pull the car with a string.
At first, the car didn’t move, but after adding a thumbtack to keep the wheel attached – upon the advice of their senior mentor — they crossed the finish line.
“Then, our car went straight and nothing went wrong,” Robertson said. “We did it with testing, and our time was 11 seconds.”
Senior Marissa Singley said the freshmen aren’t the only ones learning from the collaboration.
“It’s going to help me see how to talk to both people who are less experienced than me, and more experienced than me,” she said. “It will help me able to communicate well with others, as well as people who need help and people who are assisting me.”
Other class activities include a True Colors Relationship Leadership workshop, in which facilitators from the Amanda J. Cunningham Leadership Center led an assessment to help students define their personality and how they relate to the world and others. The next class featured discussion between senior mentors and ME 1010 teams about how they can use the newfound knowledge to become better team members and leaders.
Still other class discussions focused on professionalism, using excerpts from Robert M. Pirsig’s iconic text Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
For senior Justin Chislow, watching the student designs improve throughout the semester has been a rewarding mentorship experience.
“We’ve had projects that failed and we can pass that knowledge to them so they don’t,” Chislow said. “It’s cool to see their stuff come together, and I’m happy for them.”