Banana cars and gumdrop bridges: E-Day provides carb-laden break

Building an edible car is easy. Getting it to actually roll is tough.

It’s just one lesson learned from Thursday’s E-Day, a celebration of engineering that incorporated more carbohydrate-fueled energy than brain power. The student organizers wanted it that way to give Vanderbilt University School of Engineering undergraduates a break from the fall grind while staying true to their field of study.

There was a Minute to Win It contest where competitors tossed rolls of toilet paper backwards between their legs and through a hula hoop. A bridge-building contest with toothpicks, Dots candies and mini marshmallows serving as materials.

A Code Golf championship where the winners wrote code using the fewest keystrokes. A Rubik’s Cube station. Cornhole.

And across the activities crowding Featheringill Atrium, tiny bits of spun sugar spewed into the air from a constantly running cotton candy machine.

“I think it’s important to relax sometimes and spend a few hours not worrying about the hard math and science behind what we do,” said Justin Huntress (ChE’15), the organizer from Tau Beta Pi Honor Society.

To demonstrate his point, he held his edible car, an amalgamation of fruit, cake frosting, licorice and cookies that was held together with toothpicks. After a few failed attempts, it actually did roll.

“The biggest key is finding wheels that will support the weight of the car and roll,” Huntress said. “Corn is sturdy, but it doesn’t roll. Doughnuts are just crushed under the weight of the car.”

Adria Zern (ES’15) with sponsoring group Engineers Without Borders stood behind a table nearby, hawking the bridge-building game with the promise of rich, colorful Gigi’s Cupcakes as prizes.

It was a spin-off of a spring Engineering Week contest that invited participants to build the tallest free-standing structures they could with Dots and toothpicks, she said. That winner finally quit building at 8 feet but could have gone higher, Zern said. Everyone learned that triangle- and truss-based designs worked best.

“And we learned Dots and toothpicks are surprisingly sturdy construction materials,” she said.

Jasmine Shu (BME’17) staffed the Minute to Win It booth, coaching her fellow students through a series of fun – and slightly ridiculous – timed tasks that could also result in prizes.

It can be tough to step away from the work of a tough fall semester, Shu said.

“People in the School of Engineering are good at time management. We have to be,” she said. “We lose a lot of sleep, but it is totally worth it.”

E-Day sponsoring organizations

School of Engineering Council, Chi Epsilon, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Tau Beta Pi, Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineering World Health (EWH), VandyApps, Theta Tau, American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE)


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering