By Nick Brunt
The 17th annual McGill Engineering Competition (MEC) was held the weekend of November 4-6 in the Lorne M. Trottier Building. This year’s edition of the interdisciplinary engineering event saw 122 students competing in seven categories over the course of the weekend, each with its own rules and guidelines designed to test participants’ skills in various creative ways.
At the conclusion of three days of furious researching, designing, and building, an awards ceremony and cocktail party was held on the Sunday night to celebrate the hard work of all involved. Industry representatives, who served as judges for the different events, concluded their deliberations by complimenting the professionalism and hard work of the participating students and by offering especially high praise to the truly exceptional teams selected as winners.
That praise is well deserved, and underscores the immense challenges facing the students who compete. But that’s part of the appeal, says John Wu, a U2 computer engineering student competing in the MEC for the third time. “The draw of this competition,” he said in speaking to the Ledger, “is being able to overcome the thought of failure and continuously try different approaches until the design works the way you want.”
The success of this year’s MEC represents an achievement for all involved, both for the competing engineering students who pushed the limits of their innovative ability and technical knowledge, and for the dedicated team of executives responsible for the running of the event.
The perennial goal of the McGill Engineering Competition is to foster relationships between students while providing them a setting for professional engineering practice as well as networking opportunities. First, it provides participants with a unique opportunity to acquire tools and experiences to supplement the strong theoretical background gained over the course of the McGill engineering curriculum.
In addition, contestants can explore their professional futures and connect with leaders in their industries of preference (such as this year’s sponsors SNC Lavalin and Schlumberger). Those who win the annual in-house competition also earn the tremendous honour and privilege of representing McGill at the equivalent provincial competition, from which they could advance even further to the Canadian Engineering Competition (an event itself hosted by McGill last spring).
The diverse competition categories of the MEC are designed to test engineering student’s abilities in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the cornerstone of the competition is Senior Design. Open to students who have completed 60 credits, students in this category compete in teams of four to develop of a working prototype to meet specific design challenge only revealed the day of the competition. The prototype is then evaluated twelve hours later on the relevance and originality of the project as well as the team’s ability to present it to the public and the judges. This year, students had to design and construct a working, controllable crane able to move metallic parts over a specified trajectory. The Junior Design competition offers an analogous challenge for students under 60 credits, with participants tasked to build a bridge and electric vehicle for this year’s event.
Other categories, however, offer very different challenges. In consulting, participants in teams of four are given six hours to elaborate a complete solution to an engineering-related problem exposed, once again, on the day of the competition. Their subsequent proposals are judged on the quality of their solution, their ability to clearly present it to the jury, and their consideration of social, environmental, economic, and technical aspects of the problem. In the re-engineering category, teams of two participants are asked to improve and optimize existing products so that they meet new constraints and requirements, and are then evaluated on the originality of their solutions, their technical knowledge, as well as their public speaking skills.
Further categories include innovative design, where students present innovative products or concepts as a solution to a problem of their choosing; engineering communication, based on participant’s ability to explain complex, intangible and abstract concepts to technical and non-technical judges; and for the first time this year, scientific research presentations, open to master’s and PhD students.
With its wealth of opportunities for all involved, the MEC is always sure to be an unparalleled showcase of the engineering faculty’s creativity and capability. Despite even the inherent unpredictability of the competition, the ability of both organizers and participants to make things work demonstrates the exact sort of flexible problem solving that is so valuable in engineering, even if the final result isn’t always quite what was imagined at the start. John Wu agrees. “When presented with the initial problem at MEC, everyone has a very clear image of what the solution should be. However,” he added, “the winning design is never what anyone originally imagined it to be. That’s the beauty of engineering.”
Full List of Winners:
Ali Murtaza Sharif
Saleh Saqib Fazal
Metteo Pearce Putt
Charbel El Hachem