Engineering Days: A culmination of education rooted in tradition

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The EcoCAR3 team presents their senior design project during E-Days 2016. 

Engineering Days: it’s a mainstay of the undergraduate experience for engineering students at Colorado State University, and some say it’s been around since the university was established in 1870.

“The legend is that E-Days began as a combined activity between the then-College of Forestry and College of Engineering, as a friendly competition between colleges,” said Frederick Smith, emeritus mechanical engineering professor.

Showcasing senior design

Nowadays, the main attraction of the week-long celebration is the Senior Design Showcase, during which senior engineering student groups present the research projects they’ve worked long and hard on over the past academic year (and likely some the night before). Student projects are set up science-fair style inside the four ballrooms of the Lory Student Center and outside on the Plaza. It’s an opportunity for graduating seniors to show off practical application of the knowledge they’ve learned during their time at CSU, and for attendees to get a taste of the innovation that comes out of an engineering education.

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Scenes from E-Days in 1973.

The Senior Design component of E-Days has only been around for the last 30 years or so, but the tradition has always been a celebration of engineering and student work. Smith recalls the first mechanical engineering robotics project called “Pass the Eggs, Please” that featured a robot that grabs an egg and drops it into a carton. Slide Rule, the CSU engineering student magazine published between 1953 and 1984, references the visual wonder of electrical engineering projects and flume designs created by civil and irrigation engineers.

Just as E-Days gives students an opportunity to share their work with others, it has also historically been a chance for the local community to visit campus and admire the work being done by engineering students. Charles Britton, an emeritus electrical engineering professor, explained that events like E-Days were also instrumental to student recruitment efforts. The Senior Design Showcase remains open to everyone, and students from local K-12 schools often attend via class field trips.

An evolving tradition

In recent years, E-Days has been a weeklong series of events. Engineering students are encouraged to participate in activities like a scavenger hunt and picnic throughout the week, with the Senior Design Showcase and Awards Banquet occurring at the end of the week. In past years (1960s-1980s), the engineering project displays were complemented by a variety of other activities, like a “woodsie.” That was a celebratory picnic about 10 miles up the Poudre Canyon, with a bonfire, barbecue, and games of department versus department tug-of-war.

Tug-of-war was an especially memorable experience for some, as the game included both faculty and students from each department. “One year, mechanical engineering pulled civil engineering into a mud puddle, and the department head was in front, so he fell in first,” said Smith.

Other past E-Days activities include the Engineers’ Ball, for which an E-Days Queen was crowned, a traveling trophy for the overall winning department, and a slew of athletic contests between the departments.

E-Days has evolved over time, but is a tradition that continues to be a memorable component of the undergraduate engineering experience – and 2017 is no exception. This year, E-Days is scheduled for April 13-15, with the Senior Design Showcase occurring on Friday, April 14. The Engineering College Council is also adding a carnival to the week’s events, which will be yet another opportunity for graduating seniors to participate in E-Days.

Come to the Senior Design Showcase

The Senior Design Showcase is open to the public! Check out the student projects inside the Lory Student Center and outside on the Plaza from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday, April 14.

Read more about some of the projects to be displayed during the showcase:

Forest service nursery gets an upgrade

Brewing technology on a small-batch scale 

Vehicle manufacturing takes front seat with Aggies Offroad

Fighting viruses with tobacco plants 

A small bridge with a steel purpose 

Equipping surgeons for minimally invasive procedures