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Balsa Wood Bridge Competition

Engineers Day Competitions

One of the more popular events of Engineers Day is the Quiz Bowl competition, sponsored by Tau Beta Pi (the National Engineering Honor Society). The Quiz Bowl gives visiting students a chance to show how much they know about science and math topics by working in teams of four to complete a thirty-minute written examination consisting of sixty to seventy multiple choice questions. The four teams with the best scores advance to the semifinal round, and the contest concludes with the two top teams going head-to-head for the coveted Quiz Bowl Championship.


Another fun and exciting part of the day is the High School Balsa Wood Bridge Competition sponsored by the UT Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Schools are encouraged to construct miniature balsa wood bridges and bring them to Engineers Day to be tested for structural efficiency.

The Egg Drop Competition has quickly become one of the most popular events at Engineers Day. Sponsored by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Materials Advantage student chapter, students must design a device that will protect a “free range” grade A egg from breaking when dropped, with the focus being on the materials used to protect the egg.

Competitors must determine whether the shape of a boat could affect how much weight it holds, specifically, a foil boat holding pennies. The competition is sponsored by the Engineering Mentor Program.

Groups of two to three are given a square of aluminum foil and a certain number of pennies. Groups must construct a boat out of the foil to hold as many pennies as possible without sinking.

Boats are tested in a tub of water, one penny at a time. The boat must float for five seconds before each added penny is counted as successful. Water entering the boat or the boat touching the bottom of the tub is considered sinking, and the last penny added before sinking doesn’t count toward the penny total.

Students are asked to design and assemble a balloon-powered car with given supplies and limited time. The balloon-powered car must be able to travel in a line on its own without any additional help from the group members or objects not provided.

In engineering, you must be able to work in a team to complete a project while considering the time constraint, structural design, and performance. On Engineers Day, your team will be given a limited set of materials to make the balloon-powered car and given 30 minutes to complete. The limited materials that will be provided are limited popsicle sticks, limited straws, 2 dowels, 2 wheels, and tape. Once the balloon-powered cars are built, the cars will race in groups of five to a predestined finish line. The balloon-powered cars that finished first in each round will have a final race, from which the first, second, and third place cars will be determined.

While the balloon-powered car will be built on Engineers Day, students are encouraged to look for possible design options ahead of time. The competition is sponsored by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

In this competition, we consider gamma radiation from a laboratory source. Gamma rays are high energy photons speeding through matter until they collide with it. When a gamma ray collides, it deposits energy into the matter. Because gamma rays are so penetrating, it’s possible to detect them through other matter (walls, floors, etc.). By using a detector (a device that recognizes incident radiation) we can tell where radiation is coming from.

This has a very large impact on nuclear security. When radioactive materials are transported across our borders or into our country, they release this radiation and that allows us to find them. But what happens when they are shielded from our detectors? To understand how to detect shielded materials, we must first understand how they might be shielded.

Students will be asked to build a radiation shield (made before coming to campus for the competition) which will then be tested using a Cobalt source to emit gamma rays.

The Tech CarniVol Student Organization sponsors a science and engineering festival for students in conjunction with the Engineers Day event. They offer five competitions of which three are more suitable for high school students to participate in, “RoboRage Harvest,” “Capture the Flag,” and “Houston, we have a problem!”. Visit Tech Carnivol for competition information. Please contact Tech Carnivol at 865-582-5362 or email carnivol@utk.edu should you have any questions regarding the Tech CarniVol Festival.

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