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Michigan Colleges Alliance Team Wins 2019 Stryker Engineering Challenge

For the past five years, Michigan Colleges Alliance (MCA) has fielded a team of four students from its member schools with engineering programs to compete in the annual Stryker Engineering Challenge. For the first time this year, the MCA team won against competing teams from Michigan Technological University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Purdue University, and University of Notre Dame. The winners of the competition received a $1,000 scholarship (each) and an interview opportunity for a 2020 internship.

The Stryker Engineering Challenge is an overnight challenge where teams are given materials and approximately 12 hours to build a robot vehicle designed to navigate the challenge. Each robot is remote-controlled and tested in a 30-minute competition. During the competition, the robots are challenged to pick up Legos and race through an obstacle course. This year marked the ninth annual challenge with teams representing eleven different schools.

This is the fifth year that MCA has fielded a team. In 2015, the MCA team came in second place, and this year they won. The team was comprised of Devin Garcia & Jeremy Barrett of Andrews University, Denise Roorda of Calvin College, and Joshua Cormier of University of Detroit Mercy. The team took first place with 204 points and Michigan Technological University was a close second place with 203 points.

The students from the Michigan Colleges Alliance team had never worked together before the Stryker Challenge as they each attend different schools. Their victory is a testament to the high-caliber MCA schools and students, and their ability to work collaboratively in new situations.

Michigan Colleges Alliance is very appreciative of Professor Gunnar Lovhoiden, professor of engineering at Andrews University, who has served as the faculty mentor each year for this competition. Each year, he has generously donated his time during spring break to take on this role demonstrating an example of the strong student-faculty relationships valued at MCA schools. “The MCA team worked really well together and maximized their performance by making good design decisions,” he says.

Hyun Kwon, chair of the Andrews University Department of Engineering, adds, “I am so proud of our students. They have proven the ability to successfully compete at such a high level and against much larger schools.”

Mad Max + Jet Ski = Awesome Invention for Calvin College Students

The magic of college is that it marries inspiration with application, encouraging the wildest imaginations and teaching skills to turn flights of fancy into reality.

Where else but college are students not only encouraged to dream of riding a snowmobile on water, but given the knowledge to make it happen?

That’s what’s happened to four Calvin College students whose senior engineering design project is getting buzz worldwide.

It’s called the Jet Blade. Think of it as Mad Max’s answer to a jet ski.

It’s part personal watercraft and part snowmobile. But it’s all awesome. And it’s something that has to be seen to believe.

The students — Zak DeVries, Nico Ourensma, Josh Vanderbyl, and Ryan DeMeester — took their love of outdoors and wedded it into an out-of-this-world idea that has attracted attention from websites worldwide and the Discovery Channel Canada.

The contraption has a 650 cc engine and two skis in front and one in back, giving the feel and control of a snowmobile.

“A traditional jet ski, when you’re riding it around, typically you’ll sit on it, like a Sea-Doo style, and those actually turn by having the jet in the rear, directing the watercraft in the direction it needs to go,” DeVries said.

“Ours is unique in the fact that the skis in the front actually do the turning of the vehicle, and the jet pump in the rear is stationary. So it gives you a really different feel when you’re riding it on the water.”

Not surprisingly, the project got an A. Now, the students have a Jet Blade website, and they’re looking for investors to bring a similar vehicle to market.

Who knows? Smaller dreams have changed the world, and Calvin College and the 14 other top independent colleges and universities in Michigan take pride in nourishing the tiniest dreams and cultivating them into greatness.

That’s because helping students fulfilling their paths and passion is what they do.

The schools emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.