RECAP: BCIT HOSTS WEC


photo by maddy adams

 

Last month, BCIT became the first polytechnic institute to host the Western Engineering Competition — an annual student-organized competition that tests young engineers in the fields of design, innovation and discourse. We sent writer Austin Czerwinski over to the Delta Hotel to drop-in on the competition and meet some of the teams visiting from across Western Canada. Austin came back with some cool firsthand experience at WEC including a look at some innovative apps, including one that finds you free food on campus. BCIT historically does very well at this competition, but you’ll have to visit our blog to find out how BCIT fared in the final results, and whether or not they’ll be heading off to the Finals in Toronto.


From January 11th to 14th Engineering students from Western Canada’s top schools gathered together to compete at the Western Engineering Competition.This is the first year a polytechnic school has hosted WEC. The event is organized by BCIT students, who handled everything from communications to logistics to the organization of the competitions themselves. Their experience and education ranged from first year student to up and coming entrepreneurs. All events, especially consulting and debating, focused on the idea of presentation. The competetion is a great way for students to test their engineering abilities

“It shows that the students are really putting themselves out there, in uncomfortable situations where they have to use their engineering skills and create solutions for problems they didn’t even know of. Plus they get to have a lot of fun doing it.”

– Navtaj Heir, Logistics Officer for WEC (British Columbia Institute of Technology)

The main event on Friday was the Junior Design Competition, where first and second year students are given a task, a set of materials and a limited time to find a solution. Students used materials like popsicle sticks to create a device used to grab a bucket through a pipe. Liam Welgan-Gunn competed in this category for UVic.

“The reason why these competitions are held is to emulate what it would be like for us in our future, so I think that there’s a lot to learn from this. Team-building skills, presentation skills and other things we’ll need.”

– Liam Welgan-Gunn (University of Victoria)

The innovative design category has students showcase existing concepts they created during their time at school. The innovations ranged from an app that finds you free food on campus to affordable agricultural technology. Rick Casson designed an affordable system that farmers can use to track the yield of their crops.

“We’re trying to empower the small farmers in Canada and across the world to be as efficient as possible to feed as much of the population as they can, to use less resources and to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

– Rick Casson (University of Saskatchewan)

photo by maddy adams

Saturday was filled up with more debates and presentations. Students from different schools had bonded over the pressure. For some, the competition was already over, but for others, it had only just begun. The Grand Villa conference center was swarming with students and volunteers coming and going from floor to floor, with the complimentary buffet as their only solace.

The debate competition had students going head to head in formal debates on issues from alternative energy to Santa Claus. This competition tests students on their ability to form a strong pitch and defend their argument under speculation. this event is often seen to be the most challenging, with debaters using nothing but the information at hand and their own logic to get their point across under the pressure of the clock. Voices were raised and fingers were pointed when the conversation got out of hand. Even the debating tradition of nitpicking for penalties was regularly exercised and exhausted.

“You challenge concepts, asking is it worth it, is it not worth? — in debating those things you actually embrace diversity in your thinking.”

– Eustache Junior Compaore (British Columbia Institute of Technology)

Saturday was filled up with more debates and presentations. Students from different schools had bonded over the pressure. For some, the competition was already over, but for others, it had only just begun. The Grand Villa conference center was swarming with students and volunteers coming and going from floor to floor, with the complimentary buffet as their only solace.

The gold winning design from BCIT’s senior design team (Yinan Shi)

The Senior Design category had finished their projects the day before but now it was time to show the judges what they had come up with. Their task was based off a real world problem in Vehicle. The goal was to connect four islands (four blocks of wood in a square formation atop another block of wood) via bridge. The catch was that the bridges also had to allow boats to pass through the busy canals. Unlike Junior Design, students had a choice of materials to use. A ‘budget’ was set and competitors could choose what they needed from a ‘store’ of electronics, scrap metal and other elements. This provided opportunity for some creative solutions. Two teams designed a round, rotating bridge that connected all the islands, with a gap left in the middle for passing ships. Another had retracting bridges that would rise for passing boats, but still allow passengers to walk over the water. BCIT’s team programmed a timed traffic system, complete with lights, where the bridges would switch every few seconds, Though relatively simple, the design was practical and even impressive. When asked how they felt about the project, they were very confident.

The Competition ended with a banquet, where the winners were announced. BCIT took home first the senior design category, allowing them to move on to the national competition in Toronto.

When BCIT was announced the victors in senior design, the team was declared “warriors” by an enthused audience member. The cry was repeated later night in a one of the shuttle carrying the students to Gastown. There, they celebrated the weekend’s events with undoubtedly wholesome revelry. On Sunday, new friends parted ways to return to their respective schools. Dean Tamboline, declared the competition a success for BCIT’s victory and the good time shared by the Engineering Students. This year’s Western Engineering Competition had its fair share of innovation but perhaps the greatest innovation were the friendships made along the way.

 

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