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Engineering fraternity: first place or bust

Wilbur will be purrfectly represented on Theta Tau's Homecoming float this year.


The UA's engineering fraternity, Theta Tau, has designed and built a high-tech, gadget-laden float for Saturday's Homecoming Parade.

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A working stagecoach will have Wilbur's many historical faces decorating the sides, with the modern Wilbur at the reins whipping the Washington State University Cougars, who will be pulling the coach.


Five to 10 members of the fraternity will be on the float during the parade, selected based on their involvement in the building process, organizers said.


""Our main engineering point was being able to put people all the way at the top at 14 feet high without the whole thing coming collapsing down,"" said Matt Leavy, a graduated mechanical engineer and one of the fraternity members in charge of building the float.


Implementing spinning wheels powered by a drive train system was another goal the fraternity members accomplished.


""We wanted to make the wheels spin to be more realistic,"" Leavy said. ""It's a trademark for our float to be dynamic and functioning.""


The float is about six weeks in the making, including all the planning and designing.


""This year, for the second time, we held an Engineering Design Review for our float design,"" Leavy said. ""All of our members and many alumni are present for this presentation and it exposes them to what a real-life engineering design review is like, which is great professional development for our members.""


Computer engineering junior Nathan Oxnam built a three-dimensional computer generated drafting program in order to desgn the float, he said.


""Nathan was instrumental to this,"" said Kevin Spencer, a civil engineering senior and another member in charge of the float building. ""The 3-D drafting benefited with construction and breaking it down step by step and since we already had the dimensions (ready) to go.""


Aerospace engineering senior Ted Gatchell was also important to the design process, as he was in charge of the float's aesthetics.


Theta Tau has won first place in the Homecoming float contest for the past 10 years.


""This year is our highest level of planning beforehand,"" Spencer said. ""We're actually coming in ahead of schedule and under budget.""


A strong alumni base and the involvement of the surrounding community are some of the reasons the club has been able to be so successful in this competition.


""Grant Road Lumber donated probably 98 percent of the wood that we're using this year and they've helped us in previous years, and the owner is just a really generous guy"" Leavy said. ""He's got a picture of all our old floats in his office. We try and work with local companies.""


Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage, a nonprofit bicycle repair cooperative commonly known as BICAS , helped the fraternity by donating the chain part of the current year's float, according to Spencer.


Tucson Appliance Company and Tucson Store Fixtures have helped in past years.


Alumni donated a truck and a trailer for the fraternity to use, and there are always numerous alumni in the crowds during the parade.


""As soon as the alumni and the crowd see our floats, they're always like, ‘Wow, you've got to be kidding me!'"" said Leavy.


The fraternity has been placed at the end of the parade for the past three years, and expects to hold the same place this year.


""We've been last because of the impression over the last few years,"" said Lynn Messenger, an engineering management graduate.


""They like to save the best for last,"" Spencer said.


The members of Theta Tau like the float competition because ""it serves a greater good of getting people to get better floats and a better parade,"" Spencer said.


Of course, winning is always nice too, fraternity members said.


""Our main goal is to win every year,"" Leavy said. ""There's been talk that Sigma Chi, who was second last year, might give us a run for our money.""


Theta Tau hasn't left their mark in only holding records.


""Every time we've done something different, they've made a new rule about it,"" Leavy said.


The UA is currently experiencing a revival in many traditions, such as ""A-day,"" Theta Tau hopes the school will consider adding one.


""We'd like them to display the winning float on the field,"" said Newton Elliott, a geosciences senior and member of Theta Tau. ""It wouldn't be disrespectful or bad for the field and a lot of work goes into (the floats). Other schools do that, and we'd appreciate that.""


Homecoming is the biggest part of the year for Theta Tau, Messenger said.


""We have a formal dance with alumni and toast the float the night before, then Saturday they cheer us on,"" Messenger said.

 


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