Undergraduate Programs

The Need for SPEED: 5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Join

Students in canoes on the river
A canoe that says "Clarkson University" sitting in a pile of orange leaves next to the river.

Hello, my name is Robert Schneider; I am a sophomore Civil Engineering student from Niskayuna NY. I have a strong interest in the construction industry, have worked as a material testing technician and as a Co-Captain for our Concrete Canoe team. When asked the popular question: “Why did you decide to attend Clarkson University?” I typically respond by saying, “I like hiking and the outdoors.” That is 100% true, but does not reflect the main reason I chose Clarkson University. This institution provides a multitude of opportunities that each student has a fair chance of taking advantage of. I’d like to share with you some of the awesome things that Clarkson has to offer through the Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design (SPEED Program).

Golden Knight Mentality

Two canoes sitting on the shore of a river.

To the average high school student starting the college application process, Clarkson may just be known as having a small student body and located deep in the North Country, but Clarkson provides many opportunities on campus. Right from the start many freshmen find activities and clubs to get involved with. I think Clarkson attracts a certain type of likeminded, tenacious people who are truly involved with our school spirit. Everyone is welcome to join SPEED across the spectrum of majors, from business students to medical students. 

Within SPEED specifically, there are a bunch of different teams to join which are listed below. I’ve noted what the most common major for some of the teams are, but keep in mind that anyone can join any team.

  • Large Vehicle Project Teams (Lots of Mechanical Engineers):
    • Baja SAE (All terrain racing)
    • Formula SAE (Formula 1/Indy racing)
    • SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge (Diesel Sled)
    • Formula SAE Electric
      • SAE- Society of Automotive Engineers
  • Small Vehicle Project Teams:
    • Chem-E Car (Recent Winners, mainly Chemical Engineering majors)
    • Design, Build, Fly (Aeronautical Engineers)
    • Human-Powered Vehicle
    • FIRST Robotics (Big scholarships, mainly electrical, computer and software engineers)
  • Building & Construction Teams (Lots of Civil Engineers):
    • Construction Management (Scheduling and Estimating)
    • Steel Bridge 
    • Timber Bridge (Fabricates bridges for communities)
    • Concrete Canoe (My favorite, design a concrete mix and concrete hull to race)
      • ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers
      • AISC – American Institute of Steel Construction

Almost all teams compete in national engineering competitions where we go head-to-head against other big engineering schools, representing Clarkson as Golden Knights. Even with less funding compared to bigger schools, we still are able to be competitive and successful. Several of our teams have placed highly in national competitions over the past couple of years, including ChemE Car (third place nationally in 2020), SAE Clean Snowmobile Design (first place, Diesel Utility Class, in 2020), Construction Management (first place in regionals, second place in nationals, 2019) and Design, Build, Fly (2018 international champions).

Professional Experience

Students working on a snowmobile

If you haven’t heard it already, you will hear it from me now, “resume building and networking are 90 percent of the college experience, the other half is in the books” (a take on Yogi Berra). Yes, a strong, diligent education is needed, but in college you will need to spend just as much time if not more connecting with people professionally. Through SPEED you will connect with students from different majors, which when combined leads to a product that has been produced by students of multiple backgrounds. By joining SPEED you will always find helping hands to solve any problem, since everyone has something to bring to the table. If you think about it, you will connect with three classes ahead of you and three classes behind you, so you will always be taking on new roles and be making new friends. Also within the campus you will be connected to the SPEED coordinator, Bob Davis, the university student government (CUSA), and form connections with professors and faculty members. Joining SPEED will also set you apart during Career Fairs, giving you a great topic to talk about and potentially leading to more job and sponsor opportunities. It is just a great way to get involved and will teach you how to communicate effectively.

Professor Involvement 

A desk with many tools and a student working.

Touching on this point again, forming connections with professors can only benefit our sense of a campus community. You get to know them, they get to know you; what more can you ask for? By starting connections you will start to work on projects bigger than yourself and open doors to even more opportunities. Some of these include paid research positions, internships, and society leadership roles.

Time Management

Students using tools and machines in the Clarkson University shop.

This is key to everything and SPEED will help develop these skills. You probably know what I mean. Once you start wasting time watching Instagram reels instead of doing something productive, you start procrastinating on everything else even more. By setting more of a schedule by involving yourself in SPEED events, you start to create more time for other tasks. Being a part of SPEED is an easy way to partake in hands-on work, something I for one enjoy. Once you are a team member, you start feeling a sense of accomplishment after long work periods.

It’s simply fun

A student using a snowmobile.

Seriously, why not join? I truly believe SPEED is the best experience on campus. There is something for everyone in SPEED, so I would encourage anyone reading this to at least just give it a try. It is a different way of learning, where upperclassmen pass down information, which is truly the whole point of being at an educational institution. I mean, who doesn’t want to carry a 500 pound concrete canoe a quarter of a mile to the Raquette River for paddling practice with friends and teammates? 

Check out the SPEED-related scholarships linked here. Also, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me at my email: schneirj@clarkson.edu and I will be sure to find an answer. 

Thanks for reading my blog, best of luck!

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