Friday, September 9, 2011

Engineering Orientation

After my awesome Physics class and doing well in Calculus, I was excited to declare as an Engineering major. I attended the summer general college orientation and dutifully signed up for all the courses my new advisor told me to take.

One of the courses new Engineering students take is Engineering Orientation. I don't remember much from it, other than it being in the engineering classroom building which is no longer standing, since it was replaced a few years ago by a new building. I also remember there was a computer lab we had to go to in order to run some special engineering software for some of our homework. It was largely about helping us determine the specific emphasis we would choose based on the types of jobs we were interested in and learning the resources available through the department.

Whenever I think of that now-demolished auditorium, I think back not first to the orientation class I had in it but an engineering test I took in that room during high school. From what I recall, students in certain math and science courses were invited go up to USU to take an engineering test that could potentially lead to a scholarship. I signed up for it, although I didn't know many other people from my high school who did.

The test was over the Thanksgiving break. My sisters were both attending USU at the time, so I stayed at their apartment. The timing was fortunate enough that I was able to participate in a Thanksgiving dinner they were holding for a few roommates, friends, and neighbors. It just so happened that one of my sisters' roommates had a brother who was also in town to take the engineering test. We nervously walked all the way across an empty campus together, found the right location, partook of the cheap glazed donuts that were provided, took the grueling test, for which I have no idea how I scored, and returned back to participate in the festivities.

What makes this so memorable was an ironic event during dinner preparations. The fastest and thus best way to cook a ton of potatoes for that well-loved side dish mashed potatoes is to use a pressure cooker. Maybe you know where I'm going with this already. Older pressure cookers didn't always have safety latches and valves that prevented you from opening a pressurized pot like they do now. As college students, assuredly they owned the oldest cookware you could find, including an unsafe pressure cooker.

As dinner time was fast approaching, the windows of the fishbowl, as their apartment was aptly nicknamed due to the large windows in the front room, were beginning to fog up, excitement was in the air, and the finishing touches of the meal were being, well, finished. My sister's roommate's brother was asked to see how the potatoes were doing. So he opened the pot to check, of course.

Well, he didn't exactly open the pot. It more opened itself, once he loosed the sealing mechanism without first releasing the pressure valve or running under cold water to lower the temperature. The immense pressure inside threw the lid off the pot in a grand explosion of hot water, steam, and potatoes. All eyes were on the budding engineer who had just finished taking a test to demonstrate his engineering knowledge, some questions of which undoubtedly covered such foundational concepts as the relationship between the pressure and temperature of liquids and gasses, possibly while keeping the volume constant.

A quick check and everyone was okay, with no major burns to report, and everyone's hearing quickly returned to normal. They were still finding potatoes in the kitchen for months afterwards. They were delicious.

1 comment:

Christie said...

Ha.. love the mashed potato incident..

and love that picture of you guys with the WTC in the background..