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University of Oklahoma engineering teams field bikes, planes, cars for international competitions

by Silas Allen Published: April 1, 2012
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“We pretty much live in here,” he said. “If we're not in class, we're here.”

That level of depth is a part of the reason for the teams, said Farrokh Mistree, director of the school. It's important for students to learn through doing, he said, both in the sense of making a physical object and also analyzing the systems that make it work.

Working on the projects helps students who learn well in a classroom setting put their knowledge into practice. Likewise, he said, it helps more tactile learners to tie what they learn in the workshop back into classroom theory.

“This has been part of our culture,” he said.

Even within that culture, each individual team sees its own brand of participant, said Sarah Warren, a spokeswoman for the school. Sooner Powered Vehicle tends to attract people interested in cycling, she said, while Sooner Off-Road draws more rough-and-tumble members who like to get muddy.

“There's really kind of a niche for anybody,” she said.

OU's teams have had a fair amount of success in recent years, Mistree said. Several years ago, Sooner Racing developed a component that's designed to improve traction. Other teams soon copied the idea, he said.

Although the teams tend to be competitive, Mistree said he sees value in the competition no matter how the students fare. His message to the teams reflects that idea, he said:

“I'm delighted to support this as long as learning takes place and you have fun.”