University of Maryland has the Coolest Final Exam We’ve Ever Heard of

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It’s starting to be final exam time, and students citywide are devoting themselves to their projects, papers, essays, reports and… hovercrafts? Yes, you read that right.  Today, in fact, freshmen engineering students at the University of Maryland’s Clark School are engaging in the most exciting final exam we’ve ever heard of:  crafting hand-built, autonomous hovercraft  to navigate around a track.  For the first time, the hovercrafts will have to “retrieve and transport a randomly located payload.”

So, how do you build a hovercraft? Apparently it just takes foam, batteries, fans, sensors, and an Arduino UNO microcontroller. Oh, and some basic engineering skills. Piece of cake!

If you happen to be on campus today, you can watch the hovering in person at the Kim Engineering Building from 9am to 5pm. You can also watch a livestream of the competition here.



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  1. Absolutely cool!

    The video clip of one of the prior events confirms my suspicion that this is the type of activity that gives engineering students the motivation to continue in what proves to be one of the most demanding fields of study. They will eventually conquer calculus, material strength, dynamics and rheology, logic and symbolic thought as they see the underpinnings of modern invention.
    While this is billed as a “final exam”, I warrant that the faculty consider a great deal of the planning and development that went into each hovercraft. The class grades will certainly reflect more than whether the team’s hovercraft reached the finish line faster than another one. There is design elegance to consider, and cost/outcome ratios, and a little bit of cosmetic touch too. When I supervised high school students doing a similar task (mumble years ago), the project outcome was always a great culmination of months of re-design and careful adjusting.
    There are comparable programs at Drexel University in Philadelphia and Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Engineering project contests are a great way for young minds to be engaged in learning considerably more than some memorized formulas.

    Thanks for pointing out this great program.

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