Terri-Jane Yuzda

From Desert Dunes to Pancakes on the Griddle

GEER 101 Gets First-Year
Engineering Students Up to Speed at U of A


University of Alberta
Student Contributor



School is in, summer is out and what better way to ring in the new academic year than with pancakes, hamburgers and dune-buggies. An impossible combination? Those who helped out with GEER 101, an initiative to welcome first-year engineering students to the U of A, would beg to differ.

GEER 101, General Engineering Entrance Requirement, is a week-long event that takes place during the second week of classes every fall. Its purpose is to show first-years that there's more to a degree than a GPA. Originated in the fall of 2001, GEER 101 has seen new activities, new ideas and increased attendance as its popularity takes root.

One of this year's ideas was to recruit two organizers whose sole job was to plan and organize GEER 101. Mathieu Johnson and Louis Bezuidenhout say the spirit of GEER 101 is to show new students the other credits that are an essential part of a degree.

"The idea behind GEER 101 is to give the first-year engineering students the orientation experience that they would get at other engineering universities," explains Mr. Bezuidenhout. "Our goal this year was to get them to know each other outside of class, so that they could meet people in a different type of setting."

GEER 101 is five days of activities. This year began with an early morning bang that saw volunteers setting up a pancake breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Monday. There were people mixing batter and flipping pancakes for line-ups that were soon to follow. Batter for about 400 servings (roughly 1,200 pancakes) was mixed, filling two Rubbermaid roughneck bins. By the time the breakfast was finished, the batter was completely gone.

Sharks and Dunes
That evening was the night of the pool tournament. Engineering students, first year and other years alike, were welcome to come out and show off their skills. This year's tournament threw a new spin on how the teams were to be chosen. As students showed up for the tournament, their names were thrown into a hat.

Just before the tournament started, two names were selected at random to determine each tournament team. This helped to mix up the group and get everyone acquainted. The tournament featured new T-shirts for the winners as well as a game with the Engineering Students' Society president.

Tuesday held the most enjoyed event by far: the design competition, which attracted 36 participants. An engineer is out flying when his biplane over the dunes of the desert when something goes wrong, went the scenario. His biplane goes down into the sand.

He signals you for help and you now have to come up with a way to rescue him. You have at your disposal Styrofoam balls, skewer sticks, a mouse trap, elastic bands, Styrofoam cups, a Styrofoam plate, a fork, a glue gun, string and some duct tape. Your objective is to design and build a dune-buggy in one hour and 15 minutes. You will be marked on the amount of materials you use and how close your buggy comes to the target after you release it.

To simulate dunes, sand was poured and mounded in a mini-pool. Students had to build a buggy that was self propelled and would come as close as it could to the target. It turned out that every team built something that worked, though some were finished earlier than others.

Organizer Mathieu Johnson laughs as he explains that there were some teams done half an hour early while other teams scrambled to finish on time. "With 10 minutes to go, you ask them, 'What's your design going to do?' and they say, 'I don't know, we'll find that out in the next five minutes.' "

Though the students relied heavily on ingenuity because of limited experience, they received a taste of an environment where communication and deadlines are key.

Mr. Johnson explained that this type of event "hones your skills of design, ingenuity and resourcefulness."

Movies and More
Wednesday was the movie night where students could come to the university, kick back and enjoy a flick with their engineering friends.

Ultimate Frisbee and shangria were both held on Thursday afternoon. Though the weather was not fully cooperative, the turnout for these events was considerable. Shangria is a traditional event of Engineering Week, held every January. Teams of eight line up, one person behind the other. The person at the back of the line must chug a refreshment of some sort, crawl through the legs of those in front, and run about 50 metres to a circle with a baseball bat in its centre.

The person then picks up the bat, places it against the ground and his or her head. The competitor then spins around the bat 10 times, puts the bat down and then tries to run in a straight line back to the next teammate in line.

To end off GEER 101, a barbecue saw more than 300 people show up. With only 450 hamburgers and a free burger to every first-year there, the barbecue was over within three and a half hours.

This year's GEER 101 tried to cater to every different student type, whether outgoing or shy, sports oriented or academics oriented. It also provided an environment where students could meet other engineering students and have some fun in the process.

The organizers wish to send out a huge thank-you to all the volunteers who put in countless hours to help GEER 101 be a success. It would not have happened without you.


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