Obey the laws of physics, use paper for paper airplanes:

Obey the laws of physics. Use paper for paper airplanes, and models of space shuttles do not need to be capable of flight -- these are a few of the instructions to students at Tennessee Technological University as they prepare to celebrate National Engineer's Week.

During the event-filled observance which begins Sunday, engineering students at Tennessee Tech plan to break eggs, stuff backpacks and fly paper airplanes in contests that pit one engineering discipline against another.

Knowing that engineers are creative and have special capabilities, rules for the events are very specific:

  • Models in the space shuttle contest do not need to be able to blast off
  • Entries in the egg drop must obey the laws of physics unless written permission is obtained from the Physics Department
  • Paper must be the primary component of the paper airplanes
  • And the airplanes must be tossed by hand. "This means no launching mechanisms of ANY type," the rule sheet admonishes.

Activities coordinator Adam Cooper, an electrical engineering senior from Morristown, says he hopes the week's events will show that engineering students do more than just study.

"It's about bragging rights," Cooper said. "All engineering branches want to say they're the best. When I came here, I was told an electrical engineer is equal to a mechanical engineer plus a civil engineer squared."

That's E=MC2 to anyone unfamiliar with engineer humor.

"Rivalries and events like this where we compete in nonacademic ways allow students to build pride in their majors and in what they're going to be doing for the rest of their lives," Cooper added.

Also at issue is the right to display the week's trophy on Saturday, Feb. 22, when prospective students from across the Southeastern United States gather for Tennessee Tech's 29th annual Engineering Scholarship Awards Program. "Each major wants that trophy at their booth so they can talk to prospective students about being the best field to major in," says Lori Purdy, a chemical engineering senior from Lenoir City who is president of the Engineering Joint Council.

New this year is a contest that honors astronaut Roger Crouch, a Tennessee Tech alumnus who will serve as a payload specialist on the April mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. In the Blast Off event, students submit a model of the space shuttle constructed of "materials typical of their own respective major."

In preparation this week, industrial technology majors were gloating over shuttle specifications they discovered at NASA's web site, which they planned to use in a computer numerical control system to mill an exact scale model. Electrical engineers were busy with circuitry their model will use to simulate the blast of thrusters and crackle of radio communications. And everyone was pitying the civil engineers, whose typical material is concrete.

In other events, students will have 20 minutes to construct a vessel of paper, tape, rubber bands and toothpicks that will keep an egg safe and crack-free during and after a 20-foot fall. They will demonstrate their mastery of aerodynamic principles in a paper airplane contest, and they will unzip their backpacks to see who has the largest collection of engineering-related items found during a timed campuswide scavenger hunt that uses clues written in limerick form.

National Engineer's Week is presented each year to bring attention to the work and contributions of our nation's engineers. This year's theme, Engineers Make it Work, was designed to encourage students in math and science and advocate eventual careers in the engineering field. The observance is coordinated by the National Society of Professional Engineers and endorsed by more than 60 major corporations and engineering organizations.

In proportion to its student body, Tennessee Tech has the largest engineering program in the state with 22 percent of the university's 8,173 student body engaged in engineering study. More information about Tennessee Tech and its engineering programs is available at the university's web site, www.tntech.edu.

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