Engineering “Survivor” event lets engineering students unwind and build community


Evan Hsu

Engineering students competed in a series of challenges, starting with a relay race by concentration.

Engineering students had a chance to show off their skills, have fun and learn more about engineering-focused student organizations at a new event inspired by the popular American TV show “Survivor.”

On Jan. 21 engineering faculty and staff participated in a series of challenges set by the hosting student organizations.

The event was pitched to Calvin’s chapter of Engineering Unlimited as an opportunity to build community and highlight engineering student organizations. 

Their idea was to have a cross between a carnival and Chaos night event that highlights the engineering clubs and different engineering concentrations at Calvin.

— Maggie Bentley

“A group of students approached the Engineering Unlimited leaders (including myself) with an idea for a fun on-campus event for engineering students,” said Maggie Bentley, a junior studying civil engineering.   

Engineering clubs Engineering Unlimited, Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Black Engineers helped organize the first ever Engineering Survivor. (Nana Ama Atobrah)

Among the group of students who initiated the idea was Luke Jensen, a junior electrical engineer and leader of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Calvin chapter, and Giulianna Giordano, a junior civil engineer and a leader of two engineering clubs Engineering Unlimited and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Calvin chapter.

According to Anna Giboney, a senior studying mechanical engineering, “Jensen initially hoped that this event would draw attention to the engineering department’s student organizations and build community across the graduating classes and concentrations,” said Giboney. 

“Their idea was to have a cross between a carnival and Chaos night event that highlights the engineering clubs and different engineering concentrations at Calvin,” said Bentley. 

The event consisted of challenges such as competing in relay races, constructing bridges and towers, solving puzzles and participating in other activities. Participants chose an engineering concentration to represent throughout the challenges. 

Each engineering student organization designed a challenge. “Most (but not all) club’s games represented what the club does: Students got to drive robots at IEEE, build model bridges at ASCE and test salt dough at [the American Institute of Chemical Engineers], to name a few,” said Bentley. 

The event allowed students in the engineering field to showcase their engineering prowess like creativity and steady hands, but according to mechanical engineering Professor Fred Haan, who hosted an event along with Professor Matthew Heun, students also showed their high levels of curiosity. 

“The ability to ask questions [is crucial]: … What are the rules here? How can I be creative with what is happening, so that I can solve the problem in a new way or solve this problem in a different way?” said Haan. 

Participants made dough and tested its stickiness and stretchiness at AIChE’s booth. (Colton Stonehouse)

“Some of the club events required knowledge of structural design, projectile motion, material properties [and] precision … to complete,” as well as collaboration between students and faculty, said Giboney.       

According to Bentley, the main goal of the event was to showcase the engineering student organizations. “The engineering profession is awesome; engineers create things using their knowledge of science to make the world a better place,” said Bentley. “Yet, the engineering [club participants] seem to dwindle in numbers every year, so primarily we wanted to highlight our engineering clubs and all the cool things they do so (hopefully) students will be more involved in them.”

According to Bentley, the event was also aiming to bring involvement from within the clubs, and to provide an opportunity for members to relax. 

“I wanted Survivor to be an inclusive event that allowed engineering students to destress … The stereotype of engineers is they’re good at math but are extremely introverted and do homework alone all the time. While that’s partly true, I want engineering students to feel welcome here at Calvin,” said Bentley.  

“I think it’s important to recognize the balance between work, relaxing and recognizing that everyone … is just a real person that you can talk to and play games with,” said Haan.