Rain ruins day, not morale

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Andrea Dale
Devin Williams stood with fellow Engineering 471 students examining their high altitude balloon Monday afternoon. Rain interfered with the tethered test the class had planned, but students still enjoyed. The high altitude balloon launch is planned for Sept. 30.

Drizzling rain coated the Quad as thunder rolled in the distance. Engineering 471 students waited inside the business building, piecing together their high altitude balloon in hopes the thunder and rain would quickly pass, allowing them to conduct the tethered test Monday afternoon.  

Fingers connected wires and double checked the placement of the equipment as eyes continually drifted to the window, watching the grey clouds overhead grow darker by the minute.

Devin Williams began collecting pieces of the high altitude balloon as it was announced the tethered test was canceled. It was the first time the senior mechanical engineering major had participated in the event.  

Transferring to USI his junior year, Williams said the engineering students were his first family.

“I didn’t know anyone when I first came to USI,” Williams said. “I was forced to communicate with my peers, and as a result, I starting forming friendships with my classmates.”

Williams said he spends most of his time with his classmates.

“We call this room the design room,” Williams said gesturing to the other students talking and cleaning up the equipment. “You can walk into this room at any point in the evenings and find at least five to six students. We just talk and do homework.”

Williams said having the community has changed his college experience.

“Engineering can be kind of a stressful major,” Williams said. “We push each other to do better, but we also support each other. Like when a friend of mine says he is going to work at a crane naval base after college, it inspires me to step up my game a little bit and work a little harder.”  

Williams said his college friendships are different than the ones he experienced in high school.

“I actually just went to a wedding for a friend of mine that graduated last year,” Williams said. “My classmates are some of my closest friends. You know, in high school I thought, ‘I probably won’t ever talk to these people again,’ but (we) have been through so much together that I think it would be hard not to keep up with them.”

Williams said this project takes about a month to complete.  

“This is the first big project of the semester,” Williams said. “Everyone in the class is broken up into groups and works on their own specific projects. My group is focused mainly on the prep the day before the launch and the day of the actual launch.”

Michael Elpers said he enjoys the project because of how it unites the class.

“Everyone knows each other here,” the senior mechanical engineering senior said. “We balance each other out. I am more skilled in equations and book smarts, but others are more street smart, they are more practical and hands-on.”

Elpers said the class has taken a different approach to the project.

“Usually this project takes the entire semester,” Elpers said. “We are doing it earlier this year so the seniors have more time to work on their first-semester senior designs. Right now I am planning to make a similar balloon to the one we are making for class, but me and a few others are going to try to get it to fly around the globe. I give it a 40/60 chance of success.”

Sarah Hoffman didn’t know what to expect when she joined the engineering program.

“There are usually at most three girls in a class,” the senior mechanical engineering major said, looking around at the room full of boys. “I don’t mind at all, I hang out with their girlfriends for my female interaction.”

Hoffman said she knew she wanted to do engineering since high school.

“I like all the moving parts of mechanical engineering,” Hoffman said. “I like the challenge of the major. Every day I wonder if I am going to make it or if it’s too hard, but then you look at all the work you have put in so far and you don’t want to go back, so you keep working harder.”

Hoffman said her classmates have been her support system.

“You can’t do this major by yourself,” Hoffman said. “I thought I could and you learn to adjust. You learn questions aren’t a bad thing because as soon as you ask a question you realize everyone else has similar questions. Teamwork is what keeps everyone going because even when it seems like it, you are never on your own.”

The Engineering 471 class will be launching their high altitude balloon Sept. 30, but the location is still undecided.

“Today we were just making sure everything is functional,” Williams said. “We still need to make predictions for the best place to launch our balloon.”

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