Team TBA Takes First in Freshman Hovercraft Competition

It all came down to seconds. Team TBA’s hovercraft beat the Cliffhanger by less than 10 seconds. The hovercraft competition, held at the 2013 Winter Design Review, was the culmination of a two-quarter freshman experiential learning opportunity. A first of its kind in the UC system, the freshman course gives students a real hands-on engineering experience – to design, build and test a multidisciplinary project.

Fall quarter students built a remote control hovercraft; winter quarter students built an autonomous hovercraft. TBA team leader Nina Tamashiro said the class was a good experience. “I really enjoyed being able to work with tools, and I saw the importance of teamwork,” she says. “The hovercraft was a product of our collaboration. We were given a deadline and the essential tools needed. The rest was up to us to decide how to spend the time, which design to use, and who should do what.”

For the winter course, there were 13 teams but only eight made it to the competition. “Failure is part of the learning process,” says Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington.  “The main reason for this class is to put students in a better thinking position, so that as they become engineers, they can take on greater and larger challenges, which will enable them to solve the world’s increasing problems.”

The course introduces students to the various engineering disciplines. Faculty representatives from each of the five Samueli School departments present their majors to the class. Topics covered during the course include fluid mechanics, materials, basic electronics, C programming, sensors and control. Project management, technical communications and interaction with industry representatives are also integrated into the course.

In addition to Tamashiro, the TBA Team members were Michael Barbosa, Sven Blaser, Aaron Daniel, Reginald Martinez and Kevin Tlaxcalteca.