Nerding hard: Engineering students compete in all-night ‘Dumpster Dive Challenge’

dumpster dive challenge

There were a few tired eyes around Colorado State University’s engineering building on Monday morning. The evening of Feb. 20, a group of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students stayed up all night participating in the Dumpster Dive Challenge – a 16-hour competition that involves transforming old electronics (think VCRs) – into engineering masterpieces.

Fueled by creativity and caffeine, the students worked in teams to build functioning designs that conformed to a Lost theme. Pretending to be stranded on an island after a plane crash, students were required to invent devices that would allow them to either escape or survive.

“I couldn’t get over the high energy in the room,” said Sterling Krone, an ECE sophomore who logged countless hours to organize the event. “It was exciting to see the students putting our classroom learning into action. We were nerding pretty hard.”

Two teams survived the challenge and earned a $100 cash prize. A team of five ECE freshmen received the creativity award for designing multiple gadgets, including an ultrasonic sensor to detect approaching intruders, and a solar panel to charge their system. A group of five ECE sophomores were honored for their designs of a transceiver radio, as well as an electric compass featuring LED lights for orientation.

“I had a blast,” said Cooper Wiegand, captain of the winning freshmen team. “While 16 hours is a little long, we had a lot of fun working together to build some pretty cool stuff.”

Student leadership, corporate sponsors

With the goal of building community among ECE students, the Dumpster Dive Challenge is a brainchild of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Etta Kappa Nu student chapters.

Spearheaded by Krone’s leadership, the student officers secured industry sponsorships and judges from companies such as SparkFun Electronics, Medtronic and Vaisala. In addition to receiving used equipment from CSU Surplus, the IEEE High Plains Section sponsored T-shirts for the event, and Chipotle donated food.