University of Vermont

Erik Guthrie

Undergraduate student, engineering

“You’d have to sprint to make this work,” says Erik Guthrie ’10, holding up a boot with an attached magnetic motor and glued-on flashlight — dark after a failed attempt at illumination from the back-and-forth shuffling of the boot. “Actually, sprinting doesn’t work either,” he says with a rueful smile. “We tried that.”

Guthrie and his four teammates are freshmen in Electrical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering 001. Along with 20 other teams, they’re presenting their final designs to the School of Engineering advisory board members, who have stopped in for the course’s concluding open house.

Assignment: Build a useful machine that will scavenge energy from the environment, store it for later use and sense how effectively the system is working

“Things don’t always turn out the way you like them to,” Guthrie says, capturing a difficult truth about product design. But most other projects — driven more by planning and less by sprinting — did turn out well.

“Energy,” says Jeff Marshall, director of the school and co-teacher of the course, “is the biggest problem our society faces and it’s inherently an engineering problem.” he says, “... In this course, we bring that problem-solving need down to a level that’s manageable by first-year students who have almost no training as engineers.”

Last modified January 07 2013 03:43 PM