OGLESBY — At Illinois Valley Community College, the best cars taste good and have a short shelf life – at least for the eighth annual Edible Car Contest at noon Feb. 20.
Student teams are constructing cars, actually vehicles that look something like cars or trucks, entirely from food. Imagine a car body made from a cucumber or a hot dog with wheels from pinwheel pasta or cookies.
Dorene Perez, computer aided design program director, explained that the contest highlights National Engineers Week. “We want students to see that engineering is fun, that it allows them to be creative,” she said. The contest also targets women by requiring at least one member of each team to be female. “Engineering groups and the National Science Foundation are working to encourage more young women to enter engineering and other science and math-related fields,” Perez said.
Teams will compete for prizes in a number of categories including design, creativity and speed. High school teams are encouraged to enter; they will be eligible for prizes in most of the categories and also in a special category just for them.
Some IVCC students will compete in special categories, such as nutritional value, which are related to areas they are studying, and student organizations are being encouraged to enter teams. IVCC faculty and staff are competing in a special category.
For the speed prizes, cars must be able to roll down a ramp about 3-feet long. The cars will be low tech, but the timing mechanisms will definitely be high tech.
Electronics program director Jim Gibson and his students will use a programmable logic controller (PLC) to time the speed on the track. The control will be connected to a computer running Rockwell automated software. The timing setup will utilize a reflective photo eye at the start and an emitter and receiver photo eye at the finish.
The contest, open to the public, will be in IVCC’s cafeteria. Entry blanks can be submitted through 11 a.m. Feb. 20; cars must be checked in also by 11 a.m.
Last year, 70 students competed on 23 teams. Teams from LaSalle-Peru, Hall, Putnam County and Streator high schools also competed last year. Three Hall teams swept the speed category and L-P teams won first and second in design.
In a repeat victory, three IVCC students won in detail in 2012 with a sugar glass creation: a black beauty named Venom.
The contest is sponsored by the division of career and technical programs and the Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project and was developed with support from a National Science Foundation grant.
In fall 2012, IVCC was in the top 10 for a prestigious Bellwether Award for its edible car contests. The national award recognizes community college projects that are innovative and trend-setting. The contest was nominated for the award in both 2011 and 2012.
Contest entry blanks, rules and photos of past winners are available at www.ivcc.edu/nsf, and information is available from Perez at 815-224-0221.