The McMaster Engineering Competition (MEC) is an exciting opportunity for engineering students at McMaster from all disciplines and years to gain invaluable experience in complex problem solving. Its prestige and broad range of categories attracts the best and brightest of the engineering faculty every year, with over 350 students attending 2020’s competition. It is an annual student-run event organized by the McMaster Engineering Society (MES) and the McMaster Faculty of Engineering. Taking place over the course of one weekend in the fall semester, the MEC challenges applicants to design creative engineering solutions with one overarching theme. Past themes have been sustainability and ethical design. More specifically, students choose from one of nine categories, each with a distinct challenge or project. The categories are programming, consulting, bio-competition, junior design, senior design, debating, re-engineering, engineering communications and innovative design.
The purpose of the challenge categories is to provide competitors with a wide range of engineering topics to explore. If students wish to practice the technical skills they’ve learned in school, they can participate in the programming, bio-competition, re-engineering or design challenges. Others who would like to learn about the more practical sides to engineering and what it is like to work in industry can enter the communication, consulting or debate challenges. The programming competition is for students who love to code and want their project to be software-based. In the consulting category, students are challenged to create a theoretical solution to a problem, considering the societal, environmental, economic and technological impacts it may incur. In the bio-competition, competitors explore a spectrum of components related to biological design and develop a solution to a bio-sustainability problem. Junior design features teams of students in their first or second year that are looking for a general problem to solve with innovative and practical solutions. Teams of students in their third or fourth year taking on the senior design challenge are given an advanced problem that requires them to build a physical prototype using sensors and motors to accomplish the required goal. The debate challenge is where competitors work under a time constraint to develop an argument based on a topic which they are asked to either support or counter. Re-engineering is the challenge where competitors are encouraged to use creativity and ingenuity to redesign an existing product or process, either improving its functionality or adapting it for a completely new purpose. The engineering communications competition tasks students with preparing a presentation on the environmental, economic, technological, and societal impacts of a selected topic. Finally, the innovative design category is for individual competitors or teams who would like to present a pre-existing design or idea that provides a solution to a problem that the competitors themselves have identified. There is truly a project challenge for everyone.
The MEC weekend features many exciting events, both in-person and virtually. The first day consists of the opening ceremonies put on by the MEC planning committee, the challenge introductions, interesting keynote speakers and a full day of problem solving! Preliminary judging concludes the first day in order to determine the finalists. The second day consists of the finalists’ presentations in front of industry judges to determine the winners, who receive a cool prize! After the presentations have finished, all competitors have the coveted chance to network with the judges. Finally, the closing ceremonies are presented to end the competition. Moreover, the in-person event includes meals and snacks provided for the entire weekend. Furthermore, every participant receives a swag bag containing awesome merch!
Overall, the MEC is a wonderful opportunity for McMaster students to apply technical skills learned in the classroom and gain distinct engineering experience. It challenges applicants to think creatively and innovatively under pressure, with every student collectively working to become an agent of change in society. Students can expect to hone teamwork, leadership and communication skills, resiliency and the ability to integrate engineering principles with business acumen. It is a true example of the value of experiential learning for students, especially in engineering.
Written by Elsa Bassi