This is the third year that I’ve participated in the Mall Day event as part of Engineers Week. The idea is that each of the different engineering groups in town host a table to show off their specific types of activities. For example, the UofA chapter of the civil engineers brought along a cutaway view of their entry to this year’s concrete canoe competition. The military engineers had a very cool FLIR camera that showed thermal images of everyone walking by. You could see the difference between a cold soda and a hot coffee, even if the cups looked the same from the outside. You could see a shadow of where your fingers were on the cup, even after you moved your hand. This was particularly interesting to me because that’s one of the jobs that the Army trained me to do oh-so-many years ago. Not drink coffee, silly – I analyzed infrared and other types of imagery.
So, I was really there supporting and promoting the electrical engineers of IEEE. As I mentioned earlier, I brought along our Jacob’s Ladder. It’s a great visual – you can actually see the “electricity” travelling up the tube (ok, technically it was a high-voltage travelling spark, but to the second-graders, it was a visual form of electricity). After three years of showing this thing off, I’ve never yet had anyone ask what the purpose of it is – as far as I know, it is strictly decorative!
I was happy to participate again; I was particularly delighted that we had enough volunteers this year so that I didn’t have to stay the whole day!
The other major activity I do for the local IEEE section is the student paper competition. The goal is to emphasize the importance of good communication skills to the engineering students, and we do this through bribery cash prizes. There’s both a written and an oral component to the competition, and it’s great practice for the students. We need to scramble a bit to get this all in place in time for our local winner to go on to the next level up in the competition–in this case, to the “Southwest Area” competition, and maybe even further to the Region 6 event! More on that when I know more.