Sweet Ride — campers vie to engineer a victory with edible cars


Cars taste wonderful, don't they? The salty crunch of the axle rod, the chocolate tread of tires on the tongue, the tang of the sun-dried dash, cotton-candied cushions and licorice wires tangled in the teeth …

This is just a taste of what 31 local middle-school girls are doing this week, June 17-24, at The University of Akron's Multiply Your Options camp, where aspiring engineers tour local engineering firms, digest the basics of the profession, and, of course, craft edible cars.

This luxurious, handheld vehicle features pretzel-rod axles, fudge-dipped cookie wheels, a marshmallow chassis, graham cracker body and gum-drop occupants.

"The girls learn design basics and start building their cars on the first day," says Heidi Cressman, camp host and director of UA's Women in Engineering program. "On the second day, they learn about the environmental impact on materials, in the forms of wilting cucumbers and sticky lifesaver (candy) wheels. That's when their problem-solving skills are put to the test."

Those skills will be tested further this Friday, June 21, when the campers race their cars down a ramp in UA's Auburn Science and Engineering Center (ASEC) lobby, where professional engineers and UA faculty will judge the cars on their design and mobility.

"By the end of the week, they (the girls) begin to see how problem-solving skills in the lab can lead to innovations in the real world," Cressman says.

The girls, who earlier in the week toured local engineering firms and learned about electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and biomedical engineering, will learn more about real-world innovation on Friday when they will visit Dominion East Ohio at 9 a.m. and attend a lecture by local patent attorney Cindy Murphy at 1:30 p.m. in UA's Whitby Hall 210.

The campers will put the finishing touches on their cars at 2:30 p.m. — balancing the cookie wheels, fortifying the marshmallow chassis and graham cracker body — and compete at 3 p.m. The final presentation and awards ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. in ASEC 210.

To the victor go the spoils that haven't already spoiled.

 Story by Nicholas Nussen

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.