Engineering competition draws high school students to Ryerson

High school students from across the city met at Ryerson on Saturday to compete in the seventh annual Engineering Idol competition.

Hosted by volunteers from the Professional Engineers of Ontario, high school engineering teams composed of four to seven students were challenged to build and design a bioreactor.

“Engineering Idol problems are always fascinatingly difficult. They sound impossible,” said Sam Mehic, a teacher and engineer from Richview Collegiate Institute, the winning school at the competition.
“The students have all grown intellectually. I tell them what I teach in the classroom is not as important as how they deal with what they learn in the classroom.”

Richview Collegiate Institute was awarded a $400 prize for first place.

The school used its bioreactor to isolate telomeres in a cell. Telomeres are what prevent chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing with each other.

By adjusting the telomeres, they learned they could make people healthier in their old age and even stimulate hair growth.

George Dimitrov, a mechanical engineer and part of the Engineering Idol committee, says the event is not your typical bridge building competition.

“The big difference between Engineering Idol and other competitions is that we don’t recycle ideas. Every year, the idea is intended to target different disciplines within engineering,” said Dimitrov.

Dimitrov said last year’s competition highlighted skills in electrical and computer engineering, and this year was about exposing students to chemical engineering.

“I would challenge you to look anywhere to find a group that can feature chemical engineering to high school students,” said Linda Drisdelle, one of the leaders of the Engineering Idol committee.

“It is really difficult to instil in high school students what a broad profession engineering is, and I think Engineering Idol is really good at demonstrating that.”

Paul Short, a former professor of mechanical engineering at Ryerson who now volunteers with Engineering Idol, said that from the strength of the student’s presentations, the future of engineering is looking bright.

“If this is the type of student coming in, not just in engineering but to the university in general, our country is in good hands.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 5, 2014.

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