Students Convene in Las Vegas for E-Fest West


March 24, 2017


The team from the California State University, Northridge was the overall winner of the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC) at E-Fest West in Las Vegas, Nev. The team also placed first in the competition’s design and innovation categories. (Photos by Jennifer Conway, Mark Skalny Photography)

After a successful launch earlier this month in India, ASME’s Engineering Festival (E-Fest) program has begun engaging engineering students in the United States. E-Fest West, the first of two festivals scheduled for the U.S. this spring, was held under sunny skies in Las Vegas, Nev., from March 17 to 19.

“I am enjoying E-Fest,” said Mahala Sakaeda, a third-year student at Utah State University in Loganville, whose team was participating in the Student Design Competition (SDC), one of several student competitions taking place at E-Fest West.

Sakaeda spoke while waiting to demonstrate that her team’s robot could swing and hit a golf ball. Earlier tests for the robot in the SDC had not gone very well, but Sakaeda had a big smile on her face all the same. “I love meeting all the (ASME) chapters from other universities,” she continued. “Our club is just six students ... and it is fun to meet all these other students who are equally interested in mechanical engineering. It is also fun to see their interpretation of the design challenge, and what they came up with as a solution. I’m just so impressed with the creativity. My favorite part of E-Fest is meeting all the students.”


Montana State University’s HPVC entry at E-Fest West, The Bamboozler, was constructed out of bamboo.

E-Fest West brought more than 500 students together on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. They came from about 50 universities, mostly across the American West, but also from New York, Florida, Connecticut and Ohio. There were also teams from Lakehead University in Thunderbay, Ontario, and from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

“E-Fest is an outstanding event,” said Paul Stevenson, ASME senior vice president for Student and Early Career Development. On an unseasonably warm day, Stevenson was in the parking lot of the university’s basketball complex, where cones and bales of hay marked boundaries for the 2 ½ hour endurance course for the Human Powered Vehicle Competition (HPVC). “The students are so passionate about everything,” Stevenson continued. “I’ve enjoyed coming out here and seeing their ingenuity with their vehicles and their passion for the race. They’ve been working night and day to make their vehicles run. It’s just outstanding.”

In addition to the SDC robots, and a wide variety of vehicles — including one made out of bamboo — in the HPVC, E-Fest West featured posters and oral presentations in ASME Old Guard competitions, plus an informal team-building competition with CDs, cardboard and rubber bands as core components.


Daniel Schmerge (center) from the Colorado School of Mines readies his team’s entry for the Student Design Competition at E-Fest West. His team took top honors at the event.

ASME President Keith Roe was thrilled by the students’ enthusiasm for hands-on activities. “It’s really inspiring to see these young people get so engaged in engineering,” he said. “It’s a practical side of engineering that makes engineering fun.... I’ve always felt engineering is a very creative profession. And when you get these people together in these competitions, it makes engineering fun and brings these kids together and it puts a big smile on my face.”

Sakaeda’s robot did not come close to winning, but classmates from Utah State University came in first place in the women’s speed event for the HPVC. The winning team in the men’s speed test was South Dakota State University.

The top overall HPVC team was California State University, Northridge, which also won top honors for both design and innovation. The Northridge team successfully focused on drive-train basics, according to head judge Will Hilgenberg.


The E-Fest West keynote session featured presentations from (left to right) Dale Dougherty, the founder and CEO of Maker Media; Eva Hakansson, the world’s fastest female motorcyclist and the designer and builder of the electric motorcycle KillaJoule; and John B. Rogers, Jr., the founder and CEO of Local Motors.

Lakehead University from Thunder Bay, rode the endurance test — and came in first — on a rented bicycle. The vehicle the team designed and built for the event was held up by authorities at the U.S.-Canada border. Judges granted the team permission to run the course on the bike, and it plans another try at the border to participate in the upcoming E-Fest East in Cookeville, Tenn.

The first place winner at the Student Design Competition at E-Fest West was the Colorado School of Mines. Michael Kelly of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology won first place in the Old Guard Technical Poster Competition, while Kyle Smith of San Jose State University took place at the Old Guard Oral Presentation.

In addition to the various student competitions, E-Fest West featured presentations from three charismatic keynote speakers: Dale Dougherty, founder and CEO of Maker Media and the creator of Maker Faires; John B. Rogers, Jr., CEO and co-founder of Local Motors; and Eva Hakansson, who is the world’s fastest female motorcyclist. Her 19-foot long electric motorcycle, KillaJoule, was a big hit at the event, as were her messages that eco-friendly vehicles can be fast, that engineering is a great career choice for women, and that engineers can build impressive machines in their backyards.


In addition to the competitions, workshops and speeches, E-Fest West was also a place where students could truly “party like an engineer.”

E-Fest West also included workshops and speakers from event sponsors including Siemens, Autodesk and ANSYS, as well as lightning talks with Dr. Noel Bakhtian, a former senior policy advisor to the White House office of Science and Technology Policy, and with Noel Wilson, creative director of Catapult Design.

Stevenson noted the breadth of these opportunities for students at E-Fest. “There are professional development opportunities, there are opportunities to network with ASME volunteers, as well as with industry,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got a lot of outstanding industry sponsors here…. So it’s a great opportunity for students to see what’s out there, in their future after graduation.”

With E-Fest East coming up from April 21 to 23 at Tennessee Tech University, ASME will complete its inaugural E-Fest season. E-Fest Asia-Pacific was held in Jaipur, India, March 3-5, at the LNM Institute of Information Technology.

Roger Torda, Public Information