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Knovel Challenge Tests Engineering Research Capabilities

A company that provides access to technical information for engineers is nearing the end of its annual competition that encourages engineering students to answer questions for a chance to win prizes, such as an iPad 2 and cash. Knovel's 2011 University Challenge has so far attracted 8,400 entries among 4,100 students at 500 colleges and universities around the world. Some of those institutions have embedded the competition into their technical curriculum.

Knovel is a Web-based application that binds technical information with analytical and search tools. Users gain access to reference collections and resources such as interactive tables and graphs.

The yearly Challenge has become popular among engineering students and faculty for encouraging students to become familiar with the use of the kinds of resources they'll be relying on as professional engineers. The company said engineers at 300 companies use Knovel in their work.

The Challenge presents a series of questions on engineering-related topics, and students can use Knovel to track down the answers. Eligible entries for prize drawings are based on correctly answering at least three multiple choice questions. Students also have the option to play one or more levels of difficulty and to play through Facebook.

For example, a question classified as easy on the competition asks students to specify the atomic weight of barium; a "hard" question asks them to choose the formula that describes the center of gravity for a hollow hemisphere.

This year the University of Alberta and University College London have added the competition to their engineering courses. Last year U Alberta finished third in the Challenge and one student won an iPod.

"Our engineering students have participated in Knovel's University Challenge for several years, and this year, I've worked with faculty to integrate the program into senior design engineering courses, among others," said Randy Reichardt, engineering research services librarian at U Alberta. "The competition is fun for the students, and it's an effective way to ensure they are familiar with resources we offer while obtaining hands-on experience using Knovel."

The deadline for students to tackle questions in the Challenge is midnight, Dec. 1. Rules are listed on knoveluniversitychallenge.com.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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