Engineering students build fun into work


(Above: some of the K”NEX models on display at the Ontario Science Centre)

A two-day event held in early March at the Ontario Science Centre might be described as every engineer’s dream: the chance to play with K’NEX. And York engineering students were fortunate enough to have taken part in the event as part of the National Engineering Week (March 1-9).

(Left and right: first-year York engineering students Karen Drozdowski and Vikesh Mahli, and, centre, second-year engineering student Tim Munsie sporting the ”famous” duct-tape tie)

The York students revelled in being able to build all manner of machines made of educational K’NEX pieces. At the same time, they were assisting members of the public who needed help with constructing various objects.

Depending on the complexity, the K”NEX pulleys, rods, panels and connectors can be used to build computer-controlled systems, robotic machines – almost as many products as you have imagination. And York engineering students have plenty of that!

“It was a fantastic day of building K”NEX structures,” said Tim Munsie, acting president of the Engineering Society at York. “Some of the floor models, already constructed by event organizers, included a motorized space station, satellite and shuttle, as well as a seven-foot tall Ferris wheel and a working roller coaster.”

(Right: Karen Drozdowski helps some future engineers.)

The students had a mission other than using the construction pieces: to advertise their fascinating engineering ties. Perhaps not quite a “Dilbert” tie, it does have its own insouciance…. As Munsie explains, “What is it? It”s a tie. And it”s blue. And it also happens to be made out of duct tape. It”s what says ‘I”m an Engineer and proud of it.” There are currently eight of them in circulation.”

Several professors who teach in the engineering program have sported the duct-tape ties “on appropriate occasions”, says Munsie, naming the wearers: Robert Prince, Richard Hornsey, Spiros Pagiatakis, Jay Majithia and Brendan Quine.

Officially, the tie was developed for “artistic reasons”, says Munsie: “The York colour is red, the engineering department colour is purple, “and blue is their complement…. But the real reason why we made the ties is that we saw blue duct tape.”