Onlookers dodged chunks of cheese, slivers of salami and flying fruit as cars careened off the track at the Edible Car Contest at Illinois Valley Community College.
For the speed prizes, vehicles constructed entirely of food were timed as they rolled, or slid, down a three-foot ramp. A number of cars lost wheels, stalled midway or failed to start rolling – even with a less than gentle push. A couple encountered problems in the pit – coming apart as their designers carried them to the track.
In the Third Annual Edible Car Contest held Feb. 20 in celebration of National Engineers Week, speed was only one category in which the edible delights were judged. Prizes, mostly made of chocolate in keeping with the edible theme, were awarded for design, creativity, detail, nutritional value and in a number of special subject areas.
The 118 students in the contest worked on teams, and they found the collaboration to be a major highlight of building the cars. As a horticulture student said, "I liked the fun I had doing it and the team spirit involved."
Being able to eat the extra or broken parts was another plus. The purpose of the competition, however, was to demonstrate that math, science and engineering can be creative and fun.
"Designing a car from food requires students to use math and science in a creative framework," said Dorene Perez, Program Director of Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided engineering and one of the organizers of the competition.
Judging by the animated reactions of the students who crowded the main lobby of the college for the speed trials and prize ceremony, the contest accomplished the fun part.
Students also demonstrated an understanding of the scientific principles behind their designs, with many of them acknowledging that axles were a design challenge.
One student said the part he liked best was "the thought process that went into it."
The First Place in Speed had to be decided by a second run down the ramp when two teams tied. The prize went to Team Gumby, a potato body designed by Max Briddick, Diane Thompson and Alyse Larsen. But they only beat the much larger Team Jalapeno entry, a loaf of bread with a pepper passenger and mini bagel wheels, by .04 seconds.
Two entries emerged as top winners, scoring in multiple categories. Michelle Bakr, Janelle Dyer, Anthony Tiraboschi, Melinda Tiraboschi, Lora Hert, Tina Stephens and Christina Rivera took first in Nutrition, third in Detail and a special category prize for Garden Express as team Papayettes. Their entry was a zucchini body with a mix of vegetables and fruit in the vehicle details.
Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung mit Sauerkraut (translated from German as Speed Limit with Sauerkraut) won Best Foreign Car, and a third place in both Design and Creativity. Designed by German students Matt Krieger, Bill Foehring, Jamie Humenick, Esther Graham, Natascha Hirsche and Ryan Siska, their vehicle was a sausage and sauerkraut delight.
The Green Eggs n’ Hamm Group, which scored a third for Nutrition, won a first in Creativity by utilizing a ham for a car body. Many Crane, Danelle Wines, Tara Fritts, Brianna Martin and Amanda Wallock designed the car.
The cars may have been low tech, but the timing for the speed competition was decidedly high tech. Under the guidance of Jim Gibson, the Program Director of Electronics, electronics students designed, programmed and built a programmable logic controller (PLC) to time the speed on the track. The control was connected to a computer running Rockwell Automated software. The timing setup utilized a reflective photo eye at the start and finish.
Perez, describing this year’s entries as "over the top," said she was particularly pleased to see students building on past designs. "Even the non-engineering students are utilizing re-engineering because they are improving on past designs they’ve seen in previous contests and on our web site."
The National Science Foundation provided some funding for the contest through a grant the college received in 2005. The grant is supporting activities to attract students to IVCC’s technical programs. The contest was also sponsored by the Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project and the occupational Technology Division at IVCC.
Leadership Team students assisted with the activities and the Student Government Association provided pizza for the participants.
Judges were Bob Reese, business professor; Sue Caley Opsal, life science professor; Tim Bias, manufacturing professor; Dave Dodge, public information office; Cyrstal Loughran, safety services office; and Ron Wagner of Electronic Supply in LaSalle.
Organizers of the contest were Perez, Gibson, and communications instructor Rose Marie Lynch.