Investigations in Engineering

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Investigations in Engineering
Science Course
Year Opened1997
Sites OfferedJHU
InstructorDr. Jack Bartholemew
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Investigations in Engineering, coded as IENG and nicknamed Fast-paced Death, is based on the Johns Hopkins freshman engineering course What is Engineering?. IENG is offered only at the Johns Hopkins site, has a precalculus prerequisite (yes, you REALLY need this; calculus is recommended but not required), and has been taught for the last 25+ years by Dr. Jack Bartholomew. It is one of, if not THE most intensive course CTY offers.

Course Description

According to the CTY Catalog: Engineering is an art that requires ingenuity, the ability to understand the components of a problem, facility in design, and the capacity to find creative solutions. This course introduces you to the excitement and challenges of scientific investigation with the aim of applying those results to create beneficial engineering designs. We’ll do more than calculate solutions to well-posed, simplified problems: we’ll translate complicated questions that real engineers encounter into projects that can be tackled and solved. These open-ended assignments require hands-on exploration—in the laboratory (material properties), in the field (remote measurement), and in a virtual environment (logic circuit design. You and your classmates will apply your knowledge of materials and their physical properties along with problem-solving techniques for statics and trusses to construct a bridge subject to constraints. Then we’ll see which bridge withstands the greatest load!

Here is the syllabus: [1]

As one can tell, the courseload for this class is extremely intense. It is highly recommended that only older, more mature students attempt this course. The speed at which information is dealt out during lectures and the pile of assignments required for the course is, in the humble opinion of a survivor of the class, only suitable for 15-17 year olds, as admin obviously agreed when in 2022 they made this course for 9th graders and upwards only. The one 5/8/10/12/13-year old (constantly changing according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) who chose to come regularly got under 20 out of 80 points on assignments.


IENG has been taught for the last twenty five years by Dr. Jack Bartholemew, although everyone calls him "Jack" or just "Doc" and no one thinks of him as Dr. Bartholemew. He is a generally laid-back but extremely sharp guy who will blow your mind during lectures. He is fond of wearing brightly colored sneakers, socks, shorts, bucket-hats and shirts.

During each morning session, Jack gives a lecture on various aspects of Engineering. The course is taught like a college course, which means that the information flows ridiculously fast, and not much time is spent dwelling on certain topics. It is helpful, if not absolutely essential, to bring a notebook and take notes. There is not really any other way to fully absorb what Jack is teaching. If you find yourself understanding concepts 3 days after they're taught, congratulations--this is normal. Spend every minute you can clandestinely studying, or be prepared to lag far, far behind.

Jack is usually available during afternoon or evening sessions if you need help. If you are clueless about ANYTHING, it is highly recommended that you talk to Jack or your TA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Almost guaranteed, the next day's lecture will bring more questions, in a vicious cycle. Jack is very approachable and will do his best to explain the complex concepts to you, so it never hurts to ask.


Two words: Mad Calc/Pre-Calc/Physics. Wait, that's four.

Don't take the warning on the course description lightly... This is a HARD course. A lot of smart people take this course without realizing this and are overwhelmed by the workload. Don't be one of those people. As a talented youth, you're probably used to hearing that classes are hard when they're actually easy. This course is actually hard. That said, if you feel like a challenge and are prepared to learn fast, apply fast, and project hard, this course can be extremely rewarding… at the cost of your sleep and sanity.

The youngest person to take this course was a 12-year-old named Dean Steinman; this is extremely unusual because the prerequisite is to take Pre-Calc and the increase of the age boundaries in 2022.

First, this course is the only one that requires an essay be written BEFORE the course, to be handed at the beginning of the first class. If you plan to get credit for the course, make sure you remember to do this essay because it's not well-advertised on the main website and a lot of people forget to do it. For more information regarding the pre-course essay: [2] (This course no longer needs an essay before, as the credit has been removed).

You'll be graded on several lab reports, at least two oral presentations, and at least two essays (one of which is the aforementioned essay you do before you get to CTY.) In addition, this class includes a midterm exam as well as a final. The culmination of the course is designing, constructing, and testing a bridge constructed entirely of spaghetti and epoxy (both of which you will find in the most unexpected places a week later). For those interested in the 3D design of the bridge which held 17 kg, here is the link to model on Google SketchUp Warehouse: [3].

The labs consist of several virtual labs, as well as the infamously complicated "Materials Science" lab (be prepared to work until 4 in the morning) and the arduous "Remote Measurement" lab. I don't want to spoil surprises, but let's just say it's extremely easy to screw up the former and the latter requires extreme patience with meter sticks and string

To even comprehend the material, let alone earn credit for this class, you WILL find yourself doing work outside of class. Paradoxically, this is against CTY policy. However, what Hopkins lacks in CTY tradition, it makes up for with lenient lights out reinforcement depending on your RA, which means you most probably won't get caught completing work.

NOTE: There is a method that allows you to retain legality and stay caught up in work. It is to avoid social contact altogether and spend every minute of your free time working on IENG stuff. This option however, is fraught with danger and was not chosen by any of the students of 11.1.

Personal interjection: In 11.1, the boys were caught once in the third week for staying up past lights out waiting for the use of a laptop. (Apparently, the boys had their door propped open and inside the residential dean found a boy playing guitar; four boys playing poker with pretend chips, and one boy studying madly SAT; two of the aforementioned were shirtless.) The girls were never caught. It is recommended one brings a contraband flashlight or lamp and keep the room lights off. Administration can see them from outside.

Personal interjection.2: In 22.1, many people were able to study past lights out, regardless of RA strictness, as you probably will be to. As long as you're quiet and your desk (and it's built in light) is a reasonable distance away from the door, you'll be fine. Also You will also be fine to shower at 2am and sneak down to make cup noodles in the room next to the site-director's lounge :).

It is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to bring a laptop armed with Word processing, Excel, Microsoft teams and PowerPoint. Also, it is generally a good idea to have your Gmail in the same language as your partners' if you are using Google Drive.

A vast majority of the course consists of group projects, so not only will this course teach you extreme algebra and physics, but you will also learn how to work in a group. The class usually becomes quite tight-knit because you work with each other so much. You need each other's help, and you need everyone to have your back, whether it be writing labs together at 2 AM, sitting next to your partner who's writing labs at 2 AM for moral support, or trying to explain midterm topics the midnight before the midterm to your equally clueless roommate. And you better get used to using epoxy, because you're all going to have to get your hands dirty in that department!

Official Class Song

The Official Class Song, written by Andrew during 15.2 is (to the tune of I'll Make A Man Out Of You):

"Let’s get down to business
To defeat the Youngs
Why'd they send me Evans
When I asked for Suns
You're the saddest bunch I've ever met
But you can bet, if you can do truss
Evan, I'll do some Young's Modulus
We must stretch as the best linguini
Because Young was so very smart
This stress-strain thing is so amazing
Let's go buy more linguini from the mart!
[Verse 2:]
Let's dimensionally
Calculate the E
And by pi dividing
Now found can be we
You're a spineless, pale, pathetic lot
And you haven't got a clue
Evan, I'll make a Bohr out of you
Time is racing toward us
Till the paper's due
And if we do not finish
I am blaming you
You're unsuited for the rage of war
So pack up, go home you're through
How could I
E with you?
[repeat chorus]
[repeat chorus]"


IENG has been taught since 1997.

CTY's photographers and videographers will often drop by during the bridge building and breaking to take videos and record testimonies of why CTY is so cool. :D


In 2011, 16 brave souls (14 boys, 2 girls) subjected themselves to this grueling course for knowledge, college credit, and the greater good.

The boys, from Chris Little's hall, formed the closest, most bro-like hall ever. The hall ate together during almost all meals, played ultimate Frisbee as a team, and in general did the same activities. From the first day it was decided that the whole hall be entered into the ultimate Frisbee tournament. Kavin Sanghavi signed everyone in the hall up for the ultimate Frisbee weekly activity to train. They lost, but they still had the most spirit. And uniforms. New inside jokes were made almost every day, and they had deep conversations over Chinese food in the hallway. Chipotle was also good. They had one of the chillest RA ever, and basically all the ravers. (Chen was the only one with live glowsticks that session). The hall was made up of Goku-l "52.5! OH YEA" Asokan, Gareth "Frisbee maniac" Chen, David "FAKE Lax/Poker Bro" Cho, Chris "REAL Poker Bro" Yu, Kavin "raving guitarist" Sanghavi, Kiran Jagtiani of the depressing music, Harry "Hacker" Brennan, William "D'arcy" Kenworthy The Fourth, Joon "8-year old" Kim, Sahil Gupta the Retired Engineer in Disguise, Dani Casas Bofarull the Smooth-voiced, Suave, Spanish Lad, Tyler "The one who sings really high" Postle, Andrew "way tall" Schade, and Xinyuan "MC/Raver/Random guy with flute" Chen.

The girls were really cool too, but since there were only 2 of them, they felt a little bit left out sometimes... But they were really awesome! See? they even drew this sign in front of our bench!

Chalk Sign!.jpg

A guy named Rob was the TA this year and was famous for bringing his iPad to class everyday and playing Plants vs. Zombies and Words with Friends (in which he refused to play his students) on it. A lot. All the time. He also wore a tie and slacks every day, way more formal than Jack, and WROTE IN ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME. As such, we made many kind-hearted jokes about him and gave him a duct tape bow tie we all signed as a parting gift. We also wrote/sang him a song, based on the tune of American Pie:

So bye, bye, guy with iPad and tie
Played his games all day in class until his battery died
And the grades he gave made all his students cry, singing
This'll be the day that I die... this'll be the day that I die.


A running gag amongst the four girls who attended was "torque" (to be shouted out in the event some rotating object had been spotted or when one of said girls decided to spontaneously begin spinning in circles) and "truss" fall. On the last day, Rob, in all his tie-and-slacks glory, showed off his inner gymnast with a one-handed cartwheel, much to the delight of the girls who had begged him to torque (as in spin around like a helicopter propeller) on video.

Mafia was introduced and played. Lacey Walker was God and quickly gained a reputation for having people die off in the most ridiculous ways (Lacey if you're reading this feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

It is notable that many, many attempts were made by the girls to mingle with the boys. These efforts were mostly in vain but not for lack of trying. At the last dance, the IENG kids along with Jack and Rob (both of whom actually came!) gathered together in a circle for Forever Young. It was a very memorable bonding moment. The comment was made that this was a very LATE bonding moment. Ahhh. Oh well. Fun times.


This session, 11 boys and 4 girls subjected themselves to this course. Writing from one of the girls' perspectives, I can attest to how ridiculously close we became to one another over the 3 weeks we went through Fast-Paced Death. The boys seemed to have a sense of camaraderie, too, which was substantiated when Skyler from Hawaii introduced them to mikkuru beam-u!, a line from some anime you can look up on YouTube. When walking back to the Gentle Slope, one could often hear RA Adrian calling, "MIKKURU BEAM-UUU!", which the boys repeated until they grouped up. It was cute.

Our TA was named Matt, and he was great, although the grades he gave us were usually worse than Jack's. He enjoyed telling us there was no smiling in engineering, and in return we called him a pelican. Together, we enjoyed hours of spaghetti science, lab write-ups (and frijoles) in the HAC lab, NAND gates, and bridge building, with Chris N. sneaking naps in between. ("Now is not the time to be sleeping!") By the end of the session, we could even tell apart the three Alexes and two Chrises, who also happened to share rooms with their name-doubles.

We (the girls) also took creeper pictures of Matt (thank you 14.2 for carrying on for us), and enjoyed shipping him with our RA Emily and chanting his name whenever he came near. Our lives became complete when he accompanied us to get ice cream. Maybe the sleepless nights spent editing projects on Diana's iPad were finally getting to us. Yes, the amount of work is soul-crushing if you wish to get credit. Yes, our bridges were pretty lame. Yes, I still haven't caught up on my sleep. But frankly, I wouldn't have had it any other way.


This session at CTY was a great, very diverse class. This class included everyone from the whisker-obsessed to The Cabinet of North Korea with Kim Jong Un n' friends. The class included everyone and everyone felt welcome whether a human, a snow leopard, a kangaroo or even a T-Rex. Some call IENG Fast-Paced Death, but we call it Fast-Paced Friendship (with a little bit of death on the side). Together we survived the epoxalypse, created Jeff, the legendary 27 kg-carrying (before penalties) spaghetti bridge, and developed a clever system of distinguishing between Branboy and Branman, all while taking enough creeper pictures of our TA, Matt, to make a truss bridge.


This session was amazing. 12 guys and 3 girls shared this fast-paced experience of lab write-ups, presentations, and dear god, spaghetti and epoxy everywhere. Countless nights were spent staying up after lights' out, particularly during the entire third week, in which we struggled to finish presentations or studied unsuccessfully for the impossibly hard final.

The TA this year was Jose, whom the girls mercilessly shipped with their RA Emily (despite Jose being married and Emily having a boyfriend), especially when he chaperoned them to Barnes & Noble and Chipotle. Unfortunately, the guys and girls failed to bond for the most part, but the class pictures at the end of the session were pretty fabulous. Together, we constructed some cool-looking bridges (notably the girls) but managed to hold rather disappointing amounts of mass. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun.

Error propagation poem

A poem written by EV Gnu-Gnu and Silver about error propagation.

When one is flipping lengths of rope
To measure distance, we can hope
That there will be no error. Wait,
But that’s not true. There is one. Great.
If we have flipped the rope N times
The bell on top of Shriver chimes
And tells us that the error’ll be
Proportional to root N. Whee.
The av’rage error’s multiplied
By this result. With this implied,
The rms we can derive
Root seven times point zero five.

2022.1 B

After two years of no on-site activity, IENG was back with 4 girls and 11 boys continuing the legacy of blotching their way through tests and presentations before being confronted by the notorious spaghetti showdown. Unfortunately, judgement day would come a day earlier than usual, with the bridges set to be destroyed on Thursday instead of Friday. Appropriate as Thursday was towel day, but very inconvenient.

None of the 5 bridge groups were prepared to meet this deadline. Irae, completely gave up and attempted to hibernate through the course, bringing eye-masks, pillows and blankets with him at all times. Guillermo, would sneak downstairs every evening to hang out… in the Epidemiology class… before any one of three TAs would drag him back to study hall. Switch, worked on her bridge every night of week 3 and even brought it home twice, epoxy in hand, to work to produce A bridge as she put aside studying for finals. This was in part due to her teammate's firm belief in Switch abuse. Switch still doesn't know if the cleaners got the resin out of the carpet and attended the bridge-breaking in black formal dress to prepare for her funeral. This was sure to follow considering her performance on the final.

But all was not to be lost! Jack, scrapped the ethics case-study and upped the weight limit of the bridges to compensate for the sooner deadline. This allowed every team to create A bridge, though some were STILL above the 350gram weight limit and none of them were particularly successful. Only 3 held over 10kg and none above 15. Nothing legendary, but nothing to sneeze at either. Although Maximo couldn't make it due to flying home early, he was present in spirit… and zoom call. After the breaking, Gabe (who had a nationals frisbee team) shot his frisbee at the remains of his bridge, still failing to completely destroy it. His team's bridge had a very strong truss, but a weak decking. Their bridge supported 11kg but when it unceremoniously broke, only a 10cm part of the decking was detached. The rest of the bridge was perfectly sturdy. Oh, and Switch didn't die. She survived, having barely scraped an above-average finals grade. Whether this was due to fact that her position-holder status made her immortal, is debatable.

IENG-B were a generally cool group. All the girls were from Wilson 2 and the boys were either from the amazing Clark 3 or Guildersleeves. IENG-B didn't get up to any extraordinary antics, but still had some pretty fun adventures and a good group dynamic. Most of the class knew each other very well over the countless group projects together and times playing frisbee or (illegally) climbing trees. IENG-B also began the cult of the chalk-skippers, who would come together every study hall and class-discussion to leave dashed streaks on every inch of blackboard in sight. Much to their TA's dismay. They would annoy their TA again when a group of them snuck out of study-hall to watch the sunset… and it was a great sunset. It coincided a rainbow and many would comment it looked like the apocalypse as it turned vivid orange and hazy. Appropriate for towel day and the bridge-breaking ceremony that would occur on the following day.

This year's IENG-B didn't have too many running-jokes (But Gabe, Maria and Switch all suck at Wordle) or gags (though we all made A bridge). They didn't have any fiery debates either (Even if everyone except Tamir is a robot). It was also surprising that no staff were shipped, especially as RA David would often help co-TA with TA Sarah. Nonetheless, it was a great class to be in and we had a much better time than the A-class!

Class list: Casey Xu, Chris Yen, Elizabeth, Edem, Gabriel Dowd (Gabe), Guillermo Herrera, Irae Jung, Lorenzo Lopez, Maria Santos, Maximo, Meith Vinod, Rahm Bharara, Rayan Raad, Sarah Badenhorst (Switch), Tamir Sklansky


In this session of IENG, 13 boys and 3 girls subjected themselves to 3 intense weeks of math, excel spreadsheets, presentations, and spaghetti. Despite awkward beginnings, the class was able to bond through chaotic group projects, boba trips, GamePigeon, spinning group huddles, chess, For The Girls, running a fraud ring during Casino Night, just a little bit of drama, and pineapple destruction.

Walks to and from the classroom would be filled with banter between Val (“kys”) and Oscar (“no bitches”) as they exchanged racist quips, philosophical discussions between Nathan and Caleb I. with his single earbud in, games of Word Hunt being exchanged between Daksh and Thomas, and arguments over truss problems between Caleb Y. and Zaee. During the morning break, the class would typically play with Liam’s frisbee. Frisbee was extremely chaotic, with Val, Monty, and Oscar constantly disrespecting one another, and Oscar always attempting to get frisbee headshots on passersby. During dances, IENG could frequently be found in the game room playing cards against humanity, For The Girls (which led to Eli’s toothpaste facial), or ERS (dominated by ERS goblin Liam). In one dance, a rapidly spinning group huddle was made with members of the class during Forever Young.

This course was certainly rigorous. Projects included the infamous Materials Lab, the RFP, the painful Remote Measurement Lab, and the technology presentations––which absolutely no one was prepared for. Except for Sophia and Zaee, with their iconic soft robotics (“Hard or Soft? ;)”) presentation. The bridge-building period was also chaotic to say the least, and involved exploring the properties of epoxy, destroying pineapples and attempting to gift them to random passersby, Val’s questionable hand motions and Zaee’s even more questionable comments, and cursed gartic phone. During this period, Sophia, Zaee, Oscar, and Jose also attempted to carry on the sunset tradition from IENG 22.1, but somehow missed the sunset twice when sneaking out. After days of grueling, epoxy-filled work, (in which snorting epoxy powder most definitely did not happen) the bridges were put to the test. Nathan, Liam, and Caleb I.’s sturdy and well-built truss bridge came in first, holding 16kg. Sophia, Zaee, and Katherine’s wagonwheel bridge held 14kg. Eli, Daksh, Thomas, and Gabe’s truss bridge and Jose, Monty, and Val’s extremely overweight wagonwheel bridge held 13kg and 10kg, respectively. Caleb Y., Boris, and Oscar’s epoxy-coated wagonwheel/truss hybrid bridge almost instantly collapsed, holding only 3kg.

Class list: Sophia, Zaee, Katherine, Jose, Caleb Y. (White Caleb), Oscar, Nathan, Val, Caleb I. (Asian Caleb), Eli, Monty, Liam, Boris, Thomas, Daksh, Gabe


In this session of IENG there were 12 boys and 2 girls. One of the boys named Colton somehow knew most of the course material. The boys would frequently chant their RAs name "Victor" at random times and attribute God like attributes to him, starting when Colton asked Victor to part the rain when we were stuck in the class because it was raining and Anuj photocopied Victor's face onto Moses. After the first day of class we sat down for what we thought would be a short 5 minute conversation called a hall meeting, little did we know it would last an hour, giving us 30 minutes to do school work before lights out, and that this would be the first of what was to be a daily occurrence. On the fourth day, we were rained in our dorms and a student named Mark referenced drying off a ball by throwing it so hard the friction caused by air caught it on fire, to which someone commented that Chris (a behemoth of muscle) could probably do that. This was the first of many jokes about chris' ungodly strength. Colton and Geneustace were playing super smash Bros after lights out and were caught because Colton hit his back on Gene's desk trying to hide when Victor opened the door. In class we learned about Youngs Modulus of elasticity, to which Anuj would then frequently use unorthodox methods to find the Youngs Modulus of body parts on people. On one day, Yael applied too much sunscreen, making his face white like a ghost. Students David and Colton frequently went "overkill" on labs they did together, opting to find the radius of a beaker as well as the displacement of the water by dirt and the Slope of the curve of the beaker to obtain the most accurate density of a rock. During the mouse trap however, Colton opted to work with David and decided to use Colton idea of the comical stick and box trap from cartoons, however after building it the teacher informed them the trap would be shaken in the air and the mouse (a ping pong ball) was expected to not fall out, to which Colton and David argued to the best of their ability that if a mouse could levitate and shake itself in midair, that more than a mousetrap was needed. Colton decided to shove a bunch of materials into his pants to work on the project in the dorm, which led to screams of David and Colton arguing while struggling to make their project work could be heard from Gene and David's dorm. Colton would not shut up about how hard he "carried". In the materials lab, pieces of spaghetti were flying around the room as we snapped them for buckling, only for Yarin to reveal that you did not need to break the spaghetti and only find when it bent, meaning the chaotic mess that was created was unevessary. Arguments between Jason and Anuj could be heard as they struggled to get their lab done (Anuj was not contributing). On the persuasive presentations, everyone chose things that were relatively easy to convince people of except for Aaron's group, who chose Nuclear Power. As they struggled to explain why nuclear power was eco friendly and that dumping the waste underwater was perfectly fine, Colton frequently gave Aaron the "stop talking" signal when he began to say things very harmful to their case or things that were wrong. To Coltons anger the two most recent cases of nuclear waste pollution was brought up, and Colton and Aaron struggled to explain their argument. During the second week Gene was learning martial arts moves and started learning grappling moves, to which Shaun taught gene a takedown move and Gene opted to grapple Shaun, this started a grappling tradition to which we referred to as "fortnite" sessions. For The most part no one was hurt, except for when Akul was thrown, and when David knocked Colton down against the corner of a bedframe causing Colton to hit his back against it, as well as Colton rematch against David, where Colton hit his back on a doorknob and then fell to his knees and his knee hit a doorstopper, as well as when Colton obliterated his toe on a bedframe in his match against Jayden. (Everyone Colton went against was lighter and smaller than him except for Anuj which was the one person that didnt injure him). Many rug burns also occurred. There were also MANY volleyball sessions. Jason would frequently look at photos of girls. During a hall meeting Victor was telling a story about someone bringing a "big pizza" into a shared dorm, to which everyone somehow managed to get a laugh out. We then began to use big pizza as a substitute word in dirty sentences. We were unclear on what it meant but we had the general unspoken consensus jt was a certain body part. During the last dance Colton tried to turn off the projector and was unable to, and neither was Cody. However, Colton turned off both televisions in the cafeteria, and as far as we are aware since leaving, they were never turned back on. During bridge building, Akuls group constructed a really strong bridge relatively quickly. Something they attributed to Colton "super members" and "epic epoxy craftsmanship". During bridge building, Anuj and Chris frequently nuked the toilets. Jason's bridge was overweight and had 2 useless members so they tried to cut it out, only for members to snap in the process, but they clutched up. David was not so lucky, and his bridge was 300 grams overweight. Thanks to Coltons design and super members, Gene Aaron Akul and Coltons bridge manages to hold 26 kilograms, despite their bridge being 100 grams underweight, Cody's bridge held up a respectable 20 kilograms, and Zubins bridge held up a respectable 10 kilograms, and David's bridge held up 3 kilograms. Colton would not shut up about "winning and breaking a cty record." As we went to watch the other classes bridge that was supposedly 2 days ahead of us, we watched as their bridges struggled to hold 10 kilograms. As well as one bridge holding -2 kilograms after penalties. On departure, the group leader Gene left to hugs and handshakes and tears and screams of goodbye from Colton in the bathroom because he was taking a dump while Gene left.

Class list: Geneustace (Gene), Zubin, Mark, Anuj, Siyuan, Erin, Aaron, Shaun (Held doors open for everyone), Colton, Chris, Cody, David, Yael, Jason, Jayden, Akul