Fountain Wars team building momentum for future

Fountain Wars team building momentum for future

Calendar Icon Sep 08, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

The UNL Fountain Wars team prepares its :"Space Jam"-themed entry for the competition at the ASABE conference in New Orleans.
The UNL Fountain Wars team prepares its :"Space Jam"-themed entry for the competition at the ASABE conference in New Orleans.
Building a program into a national power in only three years can be gratifying, but UNL’s Fountain Wars Design Team has reached an inevitable crossroads.

After finishing second at this year’s ASABE Annual International Meeting and winning in 2014, the UNL team is facing the same dilemmas that all successful collegiate teams encounter – replacing veteran team members while maintaining a level of excellence.

Captains Bethany Brittenham and Julia Burchell, who have been on UNL’s Fountain Wars teams for all three years, have graduated and have recently begun pursuing their postgraduate degrees.

“They’re leaving big shoes to fill,” said Derek Heeren, assistant professor of biological systems engineering and the Fountain Wars faculty advisor. “The difference from our first year, where we finished last of the five teams entered, to this year is having Bethany and Julia as captains.”

Heeren said the knowledge and experience the captains gained from having been on that first-year team has been invaluable. This year, Heeren said, the captains took a lot of responsibility for managing the project, including setting schedules, coordinating the work and recruiting new members.

“The in-house tacit knowledge has been important to our successes. It has also brought some momentum and helped with recruiting,” Heeren said. “We had good student numbers this year, at least a dozen who have been involved at various levels and we fielded a full team of six at the competition for the first time.”

For the competition, teams designed devices that would operate in a small, children’s-sized pool for two timed competitions – propelling a free-floating raft for the most laps around the outer edges of the pool and shooting a small basketball into a hoop the most times.

Using a “Space Jam” design theme, the UNL team -- which consisted of Brittenham, Burchell, Anna Siebe, Mitch Maguire, Douglas Rowen and Mitchell Goedeken -- achieved 22 laps with its raft, thanks in part to utilizing a vacuum-formed plastic track that kept the raft from drifting off course, and sank three shots with its “Monstar,” a manually-loaded machine with a telescoping arm that propelled the ball toward the hoop.

Brittenham said the project itself may not be anything that team members will ever have to encounter again in the professional world, but it did provide real-world experience that can’t be measured.

“The idea of building a fountain is a little far-fetched, but it teaches so many things that are going to be important to my career – working efficiently, working with new materials and new people and learning to be a leader,” said Brittenham, who recently began work on a master’s degree at Iowa State University.

Brittenham said she’s grateful for the experience of the past three years and offered a recruiting pitch to students who might be considering joining the Fountain Wars team.

“This really brought my engineering experience together,” Brittenham said. “In the professional world, you find out quickly that there is always going to be somebody who’s as good as you, so you have to do the best with what you have and in the time you’re given. That’s Fountain Wars.”