University of South Carolina

Engineers just want to have fun

By Jeff Stensland,, 803-777-3686

Engineers and computer scientists may not be famous for letting their hair down, but at least once a year they’re allowed to showcase the fun side of their work. Riding on Segways, launching soda bottle rockets and playing 3D Pac-Man is the perfect way to show the world that the professions aren't about slide rules anymore.

For the last three years, USC has hosted an open house for K-12 area students to participate in hands-on engineering projects and experiments. This year’s open house takes place Saturday, Feb. 23 around the Swearingen Engineering Center, and it’s poised to be the best yet, and that says a lot considering last year’s event had nearly 1,000 attendees.

“I met a family last year who came all the way up from Beaufort just to attend, and we had some folks from over in the Augusta area, so we are reaching people throughout the state,” said Cyndy Buckhaults, creative services coordinator with USC’s College of Engineering and Computing who helps put together the event.

The open house is the culmination of USC’s celebration of National Engineers Week. The week also has a more serious side that includes panel discussions and workshops on important topics like the future of energy and entrepreneurship.

The goal of Saturday’s open house is to expose kids to the fun, yet practical side of engineering, energy research, computer science, robotics and other specialties. College of Engineering and Computing Dean Tony Amber said the U.S. doesn’t produce enough engineers and computer scientists and the event is one way to get kids at least thinking about thepossibilities.

“If we can encourage just one student to consider a career in these vital professions, this event was worthwhile,” he said.

The biggest dilemma attendees may have is choosing which demonstrations to attend. Ambler’s personal favorite-- the soda bottle rockets and the cornstarch pool.

“I love watching students, off all ages, light up with excitement as they watch their hand made rockets take off or as they walk across a pool of cornstarch in amazement,” he said. “Those are the moments when it hits them that engineering, computing, science and technology is fun andinteresting.”

To find out more about USC’s Engineers Week, visit 

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Posted: 02/19/13 @ 4:15 PM | Updated: 02/19/13 @ 8:31 PM | Permalink