White House joins E-Week festivities

GOOD TIMES: Students take a break to enjoy E-Week.  DALE MASTERSON PHOTOGOOD TIMES: Students take a break to enjoy E-Week. (Photo by Dale Masterson.)In March, Berkeley celebrated National Engineers Week, an annual tradition since 1951. This year, the White House joined in the act, encouraging engineering students nationwide to “stay with it.”

“You’re the next generation of American engineers,” President Obama said in a recorded address during the March 14 launch of the “Stay With It” campaign, an outgrowth of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. “In an economy based on skills and education, science and technology, we need you more than ever. We need you to study hard and dream big.”

The White House’s goal is to encourage another 10,000 new engineers to graduate from college every year by connecting students with peers, role models and mentors.

Mentors can make all the difference. While freshman engineering students with access to coaches and mentors are more likely to stay in school, some 40 percent of first-year students nationwide don’t make it to their sophomore year, said Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel, during the launch.

“You could almost double the number of engineers by dealing with yield or attrition rate,” he said.

Berkeley Engineering performs much better than the national average: The college consistently graduates well over 80 percent of its entering freshmen.

Also speaking at the launch was Berkeley alumnus Gary May (M.S.’87, Ph.D.’91 EECS), now dean of engineering at Georgia Tech. May credited a high school guidance counselor with steering him toward college and engineering.

“Nobody drops out during their junior year,” May said. “Most who leave do so after their first year. We need to spend that first year talking less about techniques and more about why they’re important and how they can change the world.”

CARNIVAL: Engineers gather in Hearst Memorial Mining for E-Week. KEVIN NOTOHAMIPRODJO PHOTOCARNIVAL: Engineers gather in Hearst Memorial Mining for E-Week. (Photo by Dale Masterson.)Meanwhile, on campus, a day of outreach to some 400 elementary school children included bottle-rocket demonstrations and delicious lessons in liquid nitrogen ice cream and strawberry DNA. Organized by the Engineering Student Council, the event brought children together with undergraduates, graduate students and faculty to explore fun applications of engineering.

Engineers Week at Berkeley also brought undergraduates together for the Engineering Olympics, with a cardboard boat race, an ultimate frisbee tournament and an egg-survival test.

Teams from each department raced to build devices to protect a raw egg as it was dropped 20 feet to the ground from the terrace of Bechtel Engineering Center. Each team had 15 minutes and could use 25 popsicle sticks, 25 straws, 10 cardboard fliers and a roll of packaging tape.

By the sixth drop off the terrace, four eggs broke and three were still intact inside their cardboard, tape and straw capsules. A winner was declared after ten drops. Of the three contraptions holding intact eggs, the egg-carrier designed by EECS junior Ayushi Samaddar and EECS sophomores Sahana Rajasekar and Mark Jouppi was declared the winner for being the lightest. The device cradled its egg inside two cardboard cones on either side of a cardboard platform surrounded by straws and wrapped in tape.

“No matter how it lands, the cardboard will break its fall,” said Ayushi Samaddar, who dubbed her team’s creation the Eggsplorer.