March 13, 2007

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In the midst of a dreary February, bright banners and light-hearted competitions cheered the normally serious College of Engineering at Bucknell University. The colorful festivities were part of the sixth consecutive observance of Engineers Week, a celebration that had taken place for many years and was resurrected after Dr. Karen Marosi became Associate Dean of Engineering.

"It was always a week of friendly, sibling-rivalry type competition between the six majors in the College of Engineering," Dr. Marosi explained.

A group of students worked with Dr. Marosi to plan activities for the week, focusing on events that would be fair across majors. Most of the competitions actually have nothing to do with engineering.  A highlight of this year's celebration, for example, was a Penny War, which raised $1,508.37 for the Public Library for Union County in Lewisburg.

Penny War most exciting event

According to Emily Thiel, a Bucknell senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering, students enjoyed the all the events but especially were excited about the Penny War. "We're very competitive," Ms. Thiel said. "Some people really got into it."
Beginning in 2001, engineering students decided to award a Golden Hammer spoof prize to the overall winner of Engineers Week events. Activities this year in addition to the Penny War included friendly competitions in poetry and art, as well as a scavenger hunt.

The idea behind the Penny War is that teams compete by trying to collect as many pennies as possible to amass positive points and to give their competitors negative points by devaluing their collections with other forms of change. Pennies are worth one point, while silver and gold coins are worth their negative face value. The major with the highest point value, or least negative value, per total students and faculty in the department wins.

On Monday, Feb. 19, each major was given a container, and coins were collected from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for four days. "When it started I think every major was plotting to win with a final surge," Ms. Thiel said. "It was a madhouse in the Dean's office at the end. We ran in with a big bucket of pennies, and the top three majors slammed each other with silver coins."

Students gather in the Engineering office to donate coins in the Penny War.
When the war was over, Chemical Engineering had collected the greatest number of pennies with 14,979, followed closely by Mechanical Engineering with 13,747. After the coins were sorted, M&T Bank counted them.

Unfortunately for Chemical Engineering, there was such an intense rivalry going on between them and Biomedical Engineering that they still ended up with a deeply negative points-total because of the tremendous number of other coins counting against them, Dr. Marosi said.


Points were divided by the number of students and faculty in each major because the departments vary in size considerably. Mechanical Engineering ended up being the Penny War winner with positive points in the end. Computer Science placed second, and Civil Engineering placed third. 

Biomedical Engineering, which will graduate its first seniors this year, was the overall winner of Engineers Week events and received the Golden Hammer.
Students decided that the Penny War proceeds should support math, science, and engineering literacy in the area, so they chose the Public Library for Union County to be the recipient of the funds. On Tuesday, March 6, Dr. Marosi and Ms. Thiel presented a money order to Melanie Weber, head of the library's adult department, and to Mary K. Harrison, head of the children's department.
Mrs. Weber said that the money will go to purchasing library materials appropriate for different ages and that they will be promoted during this year's summer reading program "Get a Clue@Your Library."

Public Library for Union County representatives Mary K. Harrison and Melanie Weber receive a check from Bucknell engineering major Emily Thiel and Associate Dean of Engineering Karen Marosi.

Posted March 13, 2007