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Future Engineers Test Skills with "Hot" Wheels

Posted July 29, 1999

— A week-long workshop for high school "would-be-engineers" has some modified cars rolling.

N.C. State's College of Engineeringsponsored the Mechatronic Systems Workshop.

It is the Brickyard, but it is not the Indy 500. It is theMechatronicsSpin in Raleigh demonstrated by 21 high school students from around the country.

"Engineers are being required to be more versatile and understand more about different disciplines," said Kent Marshall, an N.C. State graduate student.

Mechatronics combines computer, electrical and mechanical engineering. Students removed the remote controls in the cars and replaced them with a programmable, printed circuit board. Then, they had to program what the cars would do.

Most of the cars did not navigate the bricks of the course very well. Like in real racing, there was a pit road where fuel was brain power.

On pit road, the characteristics of each car can be changed using a notebook computer and a few keystrokes.

"It just depends on how good they did yesterday. If they did really well, they shouldn't have to change anything," said David Wyrick, an N.C. State student.

Competitors ran a square course, a figure eight and a free style with varying success. Californian Allison Auld's car started well but had control problems.

"It keeps wanting to steer to the left or right and starts doing spins and circles. Then it ran over a cone and dislodged," said Auld.

Learning exercises like this could bring us advanced manufacturing methods and better products in the next century.

N.C. State's College of Engineering has the only Mechatronics degree program in the country and will offer it to students in Asheville using distance learning technology.


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