By Emily Ask
Drinking competitions, playing hockey and building snow sculptures may sound like nice winter break activities, but it’s how engineering students kick-off the second semester of school.
Not to mention singing loudly and parading across campus, walking in and out of classrooms until they ultimately end up in the Haskayne School of Business.
If you’re thinking about writing a complaint, counting your blessings might be a better idea. About 20 years ago the Engg Week parade included a naked woman riding a horse. The image corresponds with Godiva’s Hymn, the engineering theme song.
“Obviously societal views have changed since then,” John McDonald, vice-president external for the Engineering Students’ Society, explained. “Obviously some traditions can’t be held. There’s been talk of a ‘fair’ Godiva coming back, so if there’s a girl out on the course there has to be a guy as well. But that is [yet] to be seen.”
While those days are over– for now, anyways– Engg Week is still deeply rooted in tradition. Universities across North America have been celebrating engineering pride for the past 40 years, says McDonald.
Currently, the emphasis of Engg Week at the University of Calgary is department pride. Departments decorate their halls, dress up and make movies based on different themes.
The five themes this year are Civil Night Live (Civil), Combust a Move (Chemical), the Geostice League (Geomatics), Mechiana Jones (Mechanical) and Zoo Trek (Electrical).
“We’re the only faculty on campus that really feels like a family,” McDonald said. “When I first came to engineering . . . I knew people from second, third and fourth year within my first week. I felt so welcome during Frosh Week and it was even more solidified during Engg Week.”
Engg Week is not easily forgotten among students who participate. An event called “No Event,” which has no affiliation with the university, is organized completely by Schulich alumni. Contestants must race to various pubs, performing tasks before being allowed to move to the next destination.
“There was a portion of the evening where I ended up tie-wrapped to another man with my face painted as a cat,” said Bryan Leedham, vice-president of events for the Geomatics department. He recalled last year “running through Kensington to buy condoms from a Safeway and coming back to a pub within a time limit . . . only to drink tequila out of those condoms.”
Leedham said that it is no small effort to keep engineering traditions alive. Good communication is essential to let students know what exactly Engg Week is about and when the events are.
“People have been doing Engg Week for years and years . . . but it’s still hard to get people interested sometimes. You usually get a small group of people who are willing to have some fun, raise some money for charity and act a bit silly [but] the hard part is getting more than just the few people who really are interested involved.”
Individual departments are responsible for organizing teams to compete in events like Key Clue, as well as decorate halls and make the movies with each event worth points.
Key Clue is an extravagant hunt for the key that unlocks the Engg Week trophy (conveniently a beer bong). It involves finding clues hidden around the city by Keymasters who start working on the event almost a year in advance. The clues must be discovered, deciphered and kept absolutely secret to avoid being revealed to other teams.
Seven judges, who are selected months before, handle the logistics of Engg Week. There are five judges from each department, one judge that represents first and second year students and a head judge.
“The disadvantages [of being a judge] are very small,” said Daniel Ellis, this year’s head judge. “It’s a small time commitment as long as you . . . don’t leave everything to the last minute. Also, you miss all your classes for the first week of second semester.”
“It’s been a lot of planning, but it’ll be worth it in the end,” he said.
Despite the non-academic atmosphere, Ellis said most professors are understanding and even participate in some of the events. The Iron Chef event will often have a couple professors lending a hand in the kitchen, and around 15 professors attend the Charity Ball at the end of the week.
“But make no mistake,” said Ellis. “Engg Week remains mostly for the students. There’s a couple events [professors] can be involved with, but for the most part there’s some outrageous events I don’t think they’d want to be involved or associated with.”