Spirited NAU engineering students used their smarts along with a few paperclips, plastic bags, paper plates, rubber bands and popsicle sticks to rescue a flurry of dogs that had fallen into wells.

More than 200 first-year students in EGR 186: Intro to Engineering gathered at the Health and Learning Center last week to “Engineer a Rescue,” bringing stuffed dogs to safety from the trashcan well.

The goal of the First Year Engineering Event, sponsored by W.L. Gore and Associates, was to design a system to safely rescue the trapped dog while protecting it and the rescue workers from reasonable harm.

The teams were provided with a kit of materials including paperclips, plastic bags, paper plates, rubber bands and Gore ePTFE fiber that they could use to construct a rescue device. Once complete, they pitched their device to professional engineers, conducted a few practice runs and completed a timed demonstration.

Three of the top teams developed devices that could complete the challenge in just 4 to 5 seconds.

The event also gave the young engineers the opportunity to network with professionals from W.L. Gore and Associates, who gave out prizes to teams for most innovative/creative design, best utilization of the ePTFE fiber provided in the kit and best optional essay about the power of small teams.

“This event is a great opportunity for students to network with practicing engineers and hear how the knowledge and skills of engineering design, communication, teamwork and professionalism are used in their professional careers on a daily basis,” said David Richter, mechanical engineering lecturer and coordinator for EGR 186. He added that those are the four pillars of NAU’s Design4Practice program, a four-class sequence in the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences culminating in the senior capstone experience.