Craig M. Berge Design Day Isn’t Just for Team Members

March 6, 2023

Judges, alumni sponsors and high school students look forward to the big event.

When University of Arizona engineering students enter this year’s Craig M. Berge Design Day, they will show off their projects to a panel of judges made up of industry experts and former Design Day participants. The judges offer their expertise and perspective and help determine final grades as well as nearly $50,000 in industry-sponsored awards.

Cindy Klingberg, a 1988 industrial engineering alum and member of the College of Engineering’s da Vinci Circle, says the judge’s role is a combination of patience and encouragement. Prior to Design Day, judges review project summaries and team composition and prepare questions for the students.

“I’m looking to know if the team can clearly identify the ‘burning platform,’ what is the problem they are trying to solve?” Klingberg said. “Past winners were able to articulate the problem, present different design solutions and select a design based on performance, cost, schedule, and meeting customer requirements.”

Some Design Day judges are also connected with Tucson businesses that provide funding and mentorship to the student teams. Judge Gary Spangenberg, a 2001 mechanical engineering alum, participated in his own capstone project with Sargent Aerospace. That project led to an internship and then a career at Sargent, where he has worked for more than 20 years. Now, he is paying that opportunity back.

“I feel a sense of responsibility,” Spangenberg said. “In addition, I get to see the best and the brightest show off their hard work, and that is very exciting. The young engineers seem to get smarter every year, and their projects continue to get more mature and polished.”

Sargent Aerospace sponsors Design Day’s $2,500 Voltaire Design Award, inspired by the French philosopher’s idea that “the best is the enemy of the good.” The award goes to the team that effectively meets project goals with as simple and robust a design as possible.

“You can fix wrong, but you can’t fix indecision,” Spangenberg said. “The judges are interested in what the students got out of this process, not just in the end result.”

Honeywell sponsors multiple engineering awards as well, both for teams and individuals. Honeywell engineer and Systems and Industrial Engineering Alumna of the Year Marla Peterson says she will be on the lookout for collaboration, team effectiveness and leadership skills.

“I love Design Day!  It’s come so far since its inception, but it is the best day ever to see our future,” Peterson said. “Our future in technology and our future in engineers who will make that technology a reality.”

The Start of an Engineering Identity

While many Design Day sponsors are UA alumni, for others, the story starts sooner. Design Day also serves as a showcase for prospective engineering students from around the Tucson area. For years, Sahuaro High School teacher Ben Davis has brought his engineering students to the event. He says the students enjoy the diversity of projects on display, and that the aerospace projects are always a hit. The local high schoolers get a sneak peak of college-level engineering in preparation for their own UA education.

“They notice which groups waited to the last minute and which really planned and took the time to complete projects,” Davis said. “They definitely start to see themselves as capable undergraduate engineers while attending this event.”

Davis even gets to see some of his prior students at Design Day, who are excited to reconnect and tell him about their latest projects.

“They often express immense gratitude for my efforts in helping them learn the fundamentals of physics and engineering,” Davis said. “Seeing so many previous students in their final days of college with jobs awaiting them makes me so happy.”

The 2023 Craig M. Berge Design Day takes place May 1 at the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom and on the University of Arizona Mall.

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