By Martin S. Hussey Jr., Correspondent
Here at the Prescott campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, there are many extracurricular activities. Some are more academic in nature, while others are more for fun. If students are interested in boosting their engineering resume and having fun at the same time, then they should try out APEX! Jacob Lackey, the current president of the club, and Michael Finigian, another club member, provided insights into the club experience.
The APEX (Advanced Polytechnic Engineering Experience) club is an organization that is part of a larger program called Invent for the Planet (IFTP) that was created in 2018 by Texas A&M University. It is dedicated to bringing engineering students all over the world together to work on a real-life engineering challenge. Engineering students are split up into different teams, usually three to five students per team, where each team picks a problem out of a packet of twelve available problem scenarios. Teams have 48 hours to brainstorm, design, and present a solution for their challenge. At the end of the 48 hours, the teams will present their solution in front of a group of judges that consist of Embry-Riddle’s engineering professors.
The challenges are not simple engineering problems that, as Finigian states, “can be figured out on the back of a napkin.” No, the engineering challenges require time to make an excellent product. They range from ocean clean up to detecting wildfires from space to aiding distracted pedestrians from getting injured or killed in traffic accidents. Teams must use their allotted 48 hours effectively to brainstorm, design, and present a solution to their challenge.
In the 2019 season, more than 30 students at Embry-Riddle participated in the APEX competition, and, according to Lackey, 40 different universities participated in IFTP in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic took a turn for the worse. The APEX Competition winners received a cool LEGO set; in 2019, it was the NASA Apollo Saturn V (# 92176). Afterwards, APEX sends the recording of the winning team’s presentation to Texas A&M University, which picks the top five videos out of all the teams from different universities. Those five teams are invited to Texas A&M to present their solutions there, and the winner is chosen among those five.
There are many benefits to participating in APEX. For starters, Lackey states that it is really an interesting experience in that “you don’t know your team before those 48 hours… it’s really kind of a ‘speedrun’ of trying to get your group dynamic together.” The teams that work extremely well together create a fantastic product for their challenge. Students who participate also gain more experience. Both Finigian and Lackey claim being in APEX is a great resume builder, as, according to the latter, “A lot of companies are excited to hear about this challenge you did in 48 hours to solve some big problem and have a presentation.”
At the end of their testimonies, both Finigian and Lackey stated that APEX is not the ‘run of the mill’ club. It is a fantastic club that exposes its members to real-life issues and teaches them excellent teamwork and communication skills. The prizes involved, including resume building and possibly a LEGO set, are lucrative as well. And of course, both members also wanted to state that there would be free GOOD food as well! The next competition runs February 18–20, attend to compete with friends! The sign-up link is here: [https://forms.gle/B19kosLAhcoJ1SL3A]. The QR Code is here: