About a month into the first semester in Sweet Briar College’s engineering program, students at the all-women’s school get their initial taste of what engineers do in the workplace. You could say they get their feet wet. The annual Cardboard Boat Regatta is a team project involving each step of the design process that engineers use every day to solve real-world problems. Students in Engineering 110 must propose, design, test and build buoyant vessels with cardboard and duct tape. Then they climb aboard and try to beat each other to the finish line – if they don’t sink first.
“Only at a women’s college can you have a trebuchet sling be a brassiere cup,” Sweet Briar assistant professor of engineering Scott Pierce observed, watching his students maneuver their medieval-era weapons into launch positions.
Later this month, there will be robots at Sweet Briar College, and not your everyday run-of-the-mill automatons. Designed and built by engineering students, these robots will do something that should make every housekeeper smile — they’ll wash windows.
In case anyone noticed assistant professor of engineering Dorsa Sanadgol missing at Sweet Briar’s last faculty meeting, she had a good reason. She was en route to the McLean Hilton in Tysons Corner for the 2007 Virginia Innovation Showcase on Nov. 2.
Just prior to the start of the Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday, Sept. 22, crew members of The Dam Boat were trying to get a few extra points with the judges. “Dam Boat, Dam Boat, paddle hard, paddle free,” they sang. “Dam Boat, woo-woo, Dam Boat.”