CORVALLIS - Flying fishing lures and racing off-road vehicles will highlight the weekend as engineering students from throughout the Northwest gather at Oregon State University on April 6-8.

The action is part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers regional student conference, which includes students from colleges and universities throughout Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, as well as the Canadian regions of Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Yukon Territories.

A conference highlight is a challenge to design an automated fishing pole for use by people with disabilities. The conference also includes an off-road vehicle design contest and several other design competitions, as well as technical conferences, and oral and poster competitions.

The design competitions can be enjoyable to watch as well as dramatic as designs are sometimes unpredictable, said Danielle Hall, an OSU post-baccalaureate student in mechanical engineering.

The fishing project is part of an annual national competition sponsored by the engineering society. This year, students were asked to design a fishing pole for use by people with quadriplegia.

"Students were given a standard fishing pole and a list of rules. Using these regulations, students were to design a machine that aims, casts, and reels a fishing lure. Students will be judged on their ability to accurately hit three targets," she said.

The fishing designs will be unveiled and tested starting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 8, in OSU's Milam Auditorium.

Students will compete in the Micro Baja project at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 7. The project involves designing a radio-controlled off-road vehicle, no wider than 10 inches. The machines will be tested on an indoor track studded with such obstacles as water-filled trenches, rock and sand pits and steep hills. Judging will be on a combination of design elements, as well as vehicle aesthetics.

Other events include an impromptu design competition where students are presented with a design problem and given a set time to solve the problem and oral competitions in which students have 15 minutes to present a topic related to an engineering theme.

Winners at the regional conference will have the chance to advance to the national finals.

Conference events will conclude with an awards luncheon and T-shirt competition at noon on April 8.

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Danielle Hall, 541-758-4183