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Students Show Off Inventions at Professional Engineering Conference

UCLA Engineering's Baja Buggy took first place in a maneuverability race at the annual SolidWorks user conference.

A week away from a summer competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the team from the University of California Los Angeles Engineering department was in trouble. According to coverage by Anthony Tyson, an undergraduate systems design & heat transfer engineer, the UCLA Racing Baja entry had just gone through a day of field testing when a design flaw in the drivetrain differential "caused a failure that destroyed every single gear." For five days the team worked to identify and fix the failure, which included doing a redesign with engineering software, obtaining replacement gears, making new steel shafts, and once again getting the vehicle ready for competition. The work paid off. UCLA placed first in a maneuverability race.

So goes the world of engineering students. A number of teams from Southern California institutions will be displaying their feats of engineering in San Diego starting on Monday, February 13, at an annual user conference put on by SolidWorks, a company that creates engineering software.

Among the creations: a hybrid race car and a solar boat from Cal Poly Pomona; a remotely operated underwater vehicle, the MATE ROV, from Long Beach City College; an autonomous underwater vehicle from San Diego City College; and an electric race car from the University of San Diego, among others.

Each of the engineering programs behind these vehicles participates in an educational initiative sponsored by the company that provides student editions of SolidWorks software as well as freely available curriculum such as student and teacher guides, tutorials, project instructions, and step-by-step test drives that show teachers and students how to use the software's feature set.

The student Web site also provides a link to a SolidWorks-related job portal. That job connection is a major draw for students participating in the engineering competitions. According to UCLA's Tyson, officers from the Racing Baja team last summer picked up internships from SpaceX, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Honda, where, he said, "they take real engineering experiences and bring it back to the UCLA community to mentor new members."

The user conference, which draws about 4,000 attendees, will feature 10 sessions specifically for educators in topics such as, helping students develop a "full-blown" project in under 12 weeks; integrating the software into the classroom in middle and high schools; and using SolidWorks to design, test, and prototype products for local companies.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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