As most students were easing their way into March Break, 11 teams of science students from I.E. Weldon and St. Thomas Aquinas assembled in a room off Weldon’s cafeteria to compete in the second annual Lindsay Engineering Challenge late last week.
Only after they sat down at tables strewn with balsa wood, foam board, glue guns and other paraphernalia did they learn that their design challenge would be to construct a glider that, propelled by a launcher mechanism, could sail the length of the cafeteria while remaining within boundary lines.
The friendly competition had been organized by the Peterborough chapters of Professional Engineers of Ontario, The Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to celebrate National Engineering Month, but it was Lindsay geotechnical engineer Arash Yazdani who brought the event here. The goal was to give the next generation a taste of the kinds of problems professional engineers and technologists/ technicians strive to solve.
After welcoming the students and their teachers, Yazdani introduced the other engineers and technologists helping out and reminded the students of the important roles engineers play. “You probably interacted with the work of engineers 10 times on the way to school,” he told them, explaining that roads, buildings, lighting, and vehicles, all called for engineering and that the essence of engineering was problem-solving.
Before setting out instructions for the day’s problem, Yazdani (who just four weeks ago opened up his own firm here in Lindsay, PRI Engineering) had local aviation engineer Brian Robinson discuss his career, the enormous advances he’d seen, and the aeronautical principles that would be in play.
Robinson was well-qualified to do the introduction. He started flying when he was 12 and is founder and chief technical officer of Horizon Aircraft, a cutting-edge aerospace engineering company based here in Lindsay and building the first practical hybrid electric aircraft in North America.
After Robinson’s last-minutes tips (“The whole trick for you guys today is stability in flight; the key to gliders is that the centre of lift and center of gravity have to be equal — make those close together…”) Yazdani outlined the available materials, construction constraints, and scoring system, encouraged them to be safe and have fun, and set them to work.
Teams were given close to three hours for construction, initial testing, and completion of written work.
At 1 pm everyone assembled in the cafeteria for the two official test-flights. Eleven groups and 11 distinct designs. “Awesome to see such unique designs, all from the same materials and design parameters” was Yazdani’s comment.
One by one, teams set their creations on the mechanical launcher and told the volunteer responsible for the launcher how far back they wanted the elastic drawn.
Some gliders veered outside the lines marked on the floor, took nose-dives, or performed unexpected loops. The strongest designs floated the length of the cafeteria (bonus points were awarded for reaching the end wall).
Points for the gliders were combined with scores on the written work. (Sample question: Given a mass of 1.25 kg and acceleration due to gravity of 9.81 m/s squared, what will the acceleration as the glider leaves the launcher be if the rubber tubing applies a force of 30 N.)
Trophies and prizes provided by Race Toyota were awarded to the top three teams, all from Weldon, and the event concluded with group photos.
The winning teams:
First place — Jess Perrin, Carter Gabriele, Harry McNabb, Vincent Landreville
Second place –Allison Scott, Adriana Cook, Olivia Ashton, Hudson Dietrich
Third place – Tanner Bigcanoe, Angela Oh, Danielle Hennekam, Evan Chayer