Logo: University of Southern California

E-Week Is A Hit!

Students joust and throw pies at professors before sprucing up for the grand Viterbi Ball

February 23, 2007 — They creamed a couple of professors  — in a pie-throwing contest — challenged each other to jousts, built towers out of sticks and marshmallows, and auctioned off a few classmates who didn’t have dates to the Viterbi Ball.
Jousting champion Albert Mangahas is a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering.

A ball for engineers, you ask? No, it’s not just any ball.  It’s the Viterbi Ball, the third annual Viterbi Ball. And it keeps getting better every year. Close to 300 students bought tickets this year to the black-tie dinner and dance. 

It was all part of the Viterbi School’s celebration of National Engineers Week, or E-Week.  Held Feb. 18-24, the students participated in games, trivia quizzes, competitions, barbecues, ice cream socials and industry career gatherings in keeping with similar activities that were going on nationwide at many college and university engineering schools.  

“We’re here this week to increase public awareness of the engineering profession, give students a chance to bond with each other and do some networking, and basically to have some fun,” said Jennifer Boicic, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering and chair of the Viterbi Student Council.

National Engineers Week (NEW) is celebrated every February, during the week of George Washington’s birthday, to cast a spotlight on the engineering profession and give student engineers a chance to network with their peers, faculty, engineering professionals and the community.  The event was launched in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, and each year it reaches thousands of schools, businesses and community groups across the United States.


According to NEW’s website, Washington's birthday week was selected way back when because Washington himself had an engineering background.  The first U.S. president had worked as a land surveyor in his youth and was the first person of any stature to propose forming an engineering school, which later led to the founding of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

USC’s engineering school has been celebrating the event for almost as long. Photos going back to the 1950s show the crowning of the E-Week Queen and unshaven young men participating in the Beard Growing Contest. They had one week to see how much hair they could grow.   

That contest is gone today, but industry hasn’t lost its interest in E-Week. Six companies, including Cisco and Advanced Medical Optics, sponsored the event, in addition to USC engineering student organizations such as Sigma Phi Delta, the AeroDesign team, and a newly formed chapter of Engineers Without Borders. 

The week featured some hot attractions, such as the Professor Pie Toss, the Tallest Tower competition, KoolAid Pong, the Engineering Inferno, Poker Night, Water Rocket Launch, Capture the Flag, an Evening with Industry, Kids Museum Day, the Date Auction and the grand finale Viterbi Ball.
Some students donned Date Auction t-shirts to find dates for the ball.  At right, the rocketeers enjoyed an afternoon of blast offs.

“Usually the Viterbi Ball is the most popular event because the students get to go out to a nightclub in Los Angeles for a fancy dinner and dancing,” Boicic said. "The tickets include transportation to and from the Hollywood venue, which is a surprise, a full course dinner, dancing and cool bookstore raffle prizes."

Pie-tossing is also cool, judging from the amount of Cool Whip that wound up on some professors’ faces.  Ming Hsieh Electrical Engineering Department Chair Daniel Dapkus escaped most of the heavy bombardment by not telling his classes that he was participating, said Rachel Morford, an EE senior and chair of the USC chapter of IEEE. 

“Students were reluctant to throw pies at Professor Dapkus,” she said.  “They thought they’d get in trouble.”

But as the afternoon wore on, the students grew bolder.  Instructor Mark Redekopp, a senior lecturer of electrical engineering systems, was blinded by the whipped cream delights; Paul Ledesma, Associate Director for Undergraduate Admission, was covered in it.
Engineers Without Borders members, from left, Jacob Jensen, Vanessa Kuroda and Alex John.

“Bulls eye!” exclaimed Mike Wei, a junior in electrical engineering, who threw three pies before he finally hit his mark.  The crowd whooped with delight.

Behind the scenes, some of the Viterbi School undergraduate student organizations, like the Aero Design Team, participated in the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Outreach Program, visiting elementary schools and talking to kids about the engineering projects they’ve undertaken. Students were also able to join Viterbi’s Mission Science program and assist elementary school classes with after-school projects, such as making paper cup motors, model cars and soda bottle rockets. On Friday, undergraduates accompanied other local elementary school kids to a Museum Day at the nearby California Science Center.   

“E-Week takes a lot of work, but we think it’s worth it,” said Boicic, who started planning the event with the Viterbi Student Council well before the December holiday break.  “We’ve added more events this year, and I think the students are getting a lot out of it.  It’s really turning out to be terrific. “

Jennifer Boicic, chair of the Viterbi Student Council.

“E-Week has come a long way,” Ledesma added. “This year’s Viterbi Student Council, including all of the member student organizations and the committees, has done more for E-Week and the undergraduate student population than in any other year that I’ve seen.”

For additional coverage and photographs of the Date Auction and the Viterbi Ball, visit the Viterbi Student Council website at http://viterbi.usc.edu/students/vsc/.