Students compete in Engineering Olympics

HOUGHTON — Trebuchets, catapults, and mousetrap powered cars — they’re what make the Engineering Olympics a sight to see.

There may be easier ways to shoot a basket, but few things look as cool as a trebuchet designed to shoot a basketball. That was just one of the events students from six Western Upper Peninsula high schools competed in during the 25th annual Engineering Olympics held at Michigan Tech.

MTU Engineering Fundamentals Chairperson Jon Sticklen said, “The real point of this is to engage high school students in the enterprise of engineering. They get excited about it. They love what they do. If you watch them, you can see it in their eyes.”

Challenges included building a bridge made of matchsticks and a car powered only by a mousetrap, but the most spectacular are the trebuchets.

Ironwood Area School senior Grace Heffner said, “We have a triggering mechanism that we have to stand a couple feet away, and once we release it, it will let go and it will let arm swing from rest and, hopefully, it’s supposed to go in the net.”

Through panel discussions with Michigan Tech students, these high schoolers also get to learn what studying engineering is really like.

Sticklen said, “They ask questions like ‘How much homework do you have to do a day?’, ‘How much do you really regret being away from your family, how much do you feel that?’, ‘How do I succeed at being an engineering student at Tech?’ These are the kind of things that can really be helpful.”

The Engineering Olympics is hosted by Michigan Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach and Engineering Fundamentals.