Engineering Club wins Award of Distinction

Daniel Graham, Staff Writer

Engineering Club participated in the Student Mentoring Program Competition Day at UNO in early April and came away with the Award of Distinction, the second-highest level of honor at the event, placing them fourth overall.
After shutting down due to Covid-19, Engineering Club started up again this year when physics teacher Ashutosh Kumar asked senior Ashley Hernandez if she’d be interested in leading the club. She was, and not long afterwards, senior Noah McPherson asked to be her Vice President, and seniors Marley Dodenhof and Vince Orsi joined the club as well, along with other students.
“I’m interested in engineering, and I know a lot of kids are,” Hernandez said. “We have this whole arts and new addition thing going on, so it’s nice to provide kids with an opportunity to learn more about engineering and STEM.”
The club started to meet early on in the school year, and they started working on their project for the competition right away.
“We had a great idea,” McPherson said. “We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it.”
They decided to make a water wheel with an electric motor. Orsi explained that it would float on top of a river, anchored down to the river bed. Water would flow underneath it and spin the wheel, generating electricity. One wheel would generate 300 watts of electricity, and it would take just six or seven to power an entire house.
“We would have a small field of them,” Orsi said. “We could do a three-by-three grid of them all tied together, getting nine of them floating in the river, and that could power a house easily.”
To show this, the club built a life-sized model of the wheel, which Dodenhof and Orsi believe helped them a great deal in the competition.
“We built a functional model; nobody else did that,” Orsi said. “Other schools, they had 3-D models or miniature models, but we had an actual device that was capable of producing electricity.”
Hernandez also believes that building a physical model was important because they could run some tests on it. This allowed them to find flaws in their design process.
“When we did test the voltage. We were able to find out that it didn’t work as efficiently,” Hernandez said. “If it was all theoretical, we wouldn’t have come across that problem, but because we did build it, we came across that and fixed it.”
The club leaders are all graduating this year, but they encourage students next year to give the club a try. Hernandez and McPherson stressed that it provides great opportunities for everyone, and Dodenhof said it is a manageable activity to add to a busy schedule.
“It was really difficult with sports and other stuff to keep coming,” Dodenhof said, “but it was really easy to come every so often; the meetings aren’t long, and we made a group chat, we stayed in contact. It was really easy to do outside of everything else.”