Engineering clubs create projects for charity

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

Imagine a tree about 30 feet tall and about 13 feet wide, but made of foam so it’s light enough to only require two people to lift it. This was the Tree of Life created by the mechanical engineering clubs.

“About five or six of us that didn’t do anything for spring break worked on the Tree of Life (for Children’s Miracle Network),” said Darin Waldner, a senior mechanical engineering major.

“After break, more people showed up and finished it. For two weeks straight, people worked on it all day and probably put in about 300 man hours total. It was fun though, and it turned out great.”

The mechanical engineering department houses three different clubs. They are American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

“I am the vice president of ASME and a member of SAE,” said Waldner. “ASME has about 35 members and SAE has about 25. They each have about 15 real active members.”

The members of the mechanical engineering clubs started off the year with a big project ahead of them: a float for the Hobo Day parade.

“The Hobo Day float (movable rabbit) was a blast,” said Bill Bruns, a senior mechanical engineering major. “There was a lot of satisfaction finishing it. The Transformers really added another dimension for our float.”

The Hobo Day float was a success partially because of help from alumnus Adam Goblish. He brought a trailer for us and a mini excavator was used for the rabbit, said Waldner.

The float consisted of a large movable rabbit on a football field and several club members dressed up as Transformers walking alongside the float. There were at least five different Transformers, which shows the amount of time that the mechanical engineering students put into the float.

All of the clubs have small numbers of students that are very active, but the mechanical engineering clubs and department overall are growing.

“We had a 9 percent increase (in the department) in just the last year,” said Kurt Bassett, the mechanical engineering department head. “We have really good student leadership, so clubs are growing, as well. They are very active in promoting the benefits of the clubs to students and getting younger students involved.”

Doing volunteer projects for good causes has been popular with the clubs this year.

“The one that we got the most out of is the Tree of Life,” said Bruns, president of ASHRAE. “We got to be with the families and see who it was affecting. It was a lot of fun, and everybody that got involved was really dedicated.”

The mechanical engineering department was contacted by the Knights of Columbus to help with the Haiti relief project, so some of the members helped with the setup so that it would take less time.

“We did Project Impact for Haiti at the Swiftel Center,” said Bassett, a co-adviser for ASHRAE. “It was a community effort. Some churches set it up and asked for groups to help. Thousands of meals were sent to Haiti for relief.”

While all of the clubs created the Tree of Life and the movable rabbit, SAE’s big project for the year is their formula car.

“It is designed to give university students a chance to practice mechanical design skills,” said Bassett. “They design and build a small-scale formula car and take it to competition.”

The mechanical engineering clubs also built three golf holes as a fundraiser for CMN.

“There was a traditional one with a windmill. The second one was tricky and had three holes that were up a slope so you couldn’t see which one was right,” said Bassett. “The last one was the show piece. It was a runway with a fighter jet taking off. The golf path went around it and there was exhaust so that it would blow the ball.”

Some of the clubs’ projects require a lot of detail and time, but students go the extra mile to make each one stand out.

“We donated a bunch of money and time, but we enjoyed making them, and the final product makes it worthwhile,” said Waldner.

Aside from projects within the clubs, students present projects for the annual Engineering Expo. The Engineering Expo &- which draws high school and college students from several states &- starts April 23 at the Swiftel Center. It was held previously in Frost Arena.

“The expo has been going for at least 20 years. It’s an opportunity for college students to display their work and bring high school students in to see it,” said Bassett. “We had to change locations this year. It was a combination of needing more space and congestion with construction (on campus).”

Between the Engineering Expo and the different projects, the mechanical engineering students have plenty to do throughout the year.

For the club’s projects, a lot of materials are bought at Lowe’s while some are donated, said Waldner.

“One guy’s dad had chicken wire for the Hobo Day float,” said Waldner. “We had a huge donation from our foam guy. He donated foam for the construction management float and agreed to do ours for nothing. It was a pretty substantial contribution.”

Ideas are never hard to find, especially this year with all the volunteer projects the mechanical engineering clubs did.

“We hadn’t planned on doing those (golf holes) this year. CMN wanted to do a fundraiser, and we helped out,” said Waldner. “We just either get an e-mail or ideas from our adviser. CMN asked us to built the tree, too.”

Members were pleased with all projects, but Bruns said the Hobo Day float was his favorite. For others, it was too hard to pick just one.

“I am proud of the effort we have had this year. We have done more to give back, and that’s a big pat on the back,” said Waldner. “Seeing the kids’ faces light up when seeing the tree was great. The golf holes were cool, and I’m proud of the work.”