GREENVILLE — Engineering tech prep students at Greenville High School’s Career Technology Center took part in their yearly balsa wood competition in celebration of National Engineering Week Friday.
The 58 students were split into over a dozen teams, the goal being to create a lightweight balsa wood structure. Last year’s students designed free-standing model skyscrapers that were then subjected to simulated earthquake conditions; this year’s class built cranes, with the prize going to the lightest structure capable of bearing the most weight.
Jerry McClannan works as an engineer with the Greenville firm Mote & Associates. He and some of his colleauges participate in the event each year, serving as mentors to the students taking part in the competition.
“We just walk around,” McClannan said. “They’re trying to sketch a design. The teacher gives them specs. And we walk around and talk with them about engineering and structural design, maybe give them some pointers. It’s all very informal.”
Mote & Associates has been involved with the tech prep competition for about 10 years, according to McClannan.
“We do it to promote the engineering profession,” McClannan said. “And it’s rewarding to see these students come up with creative ideas, and then really start to see the process of how something they designed translates to reality.”
Chris Sykes is one of the engineering instructors at Greenville CTC, as well as an adjunct instructor at Edison Community College.
“This competition provides some good, trouble-shooting real-life lessons,” Sykes said. “It’s a time crunch, they know people are coming, and they’re going up against their classmates. In the real world, that kind of pressure can really get to you.”
Adam Eberwein, another engineering instructor at Greenville, used to be Sykes’ student years ago. Now the two work together to bring the yearly competition to reality. While Sykes walked around weighing the students’ submissions and writing down names of team members before the competition, Eberwein carried out the actual testing, hooking each crane to a bucket and then slowly filling the bucket with sand. As each structure reached its limit and then failed, McClannan wrote down the results and calculated weight ratios.
Seniors Alex Chai, Julie Roseberry, and Tyler Straight won first place in the competition, with Emma Jennings, Allie Null, and Katie Hurd coming in second. The winning teams will receive a gift card, along with a framed certificate to put on the wall.
Greenville Mayor Steve Willman also attended the event.
“This is cool,” Willman said, clearly enthusiastic. “It’s a great event. I love looking at all the different shapes, the different styles. It’s great when you can have so much fun creating something in your head and then bringing it to life.”