Fountain Wars lets students apply engineering principles to design competition


Pipes, pumps and formulas for fluid flow circled through the minds of K-State engineering students as they prepare to compete in Fountain Wars.

“We are an environmentally-based design team that is given technical tasks to complete each year,” said Ginger Pugh, sophomore in biological systems engineering and Fountain Wars team president. “This includes creating fountains that are aesthetically and environmentally pleasing.”

Under the supervision of department advisers, Fountain Wars team members compete in a national competition each year to showcase their design. Pugh said contestants are required to assemble the machine on site in a two-hour period and have it function perfectly by judging time. To compete successfully, design planning takes place early in the semester before competition.

“We started early this semester in the design process,” Pugh said. “Although we aren’t quite finished for the next competition, we always get it done on time.”

The K-State Fountain Wars team has been fairly successful in recent years, with a second place finish in Providence, R.I., last year. Pugh said she hopes to continue this success in Reno, Nev., for the June competition.

College of Engineering faculty members said Fountain Wars has proven to be an asset to the college and student potential.

“This group gives students [an opportunity] to take things they learned from class like fluid dynamics, focus on engineering aspects, and create something totally original,” said Gary Clark, senior associate dean in the College of Engineering and former organization adviser. “They experience technical challenges and learn more about electronics at the same time.”

The organization has also provided its members with great experience and resources to aid in academics, students said.

“Applying engineering principles with designing has helped me approach problems in my classes with greater confidence,” said Rebecca Burns, senior in biological and agricultural engineering. “I have received internship offers because I am on a team that is successful.”

Clark said past designs have included voice-activated valves that react on command, as well as valves programmed to songs that create a Bellagio effect, as in Las Vegas.

More and more professors and students have started to recognize the program as it gains notoriety.

“The students involved with Fountain Wars have gained valuable leadership training and learned to work as a team,” Clark said. “They are wonderful representatives for Kansas State University.”

As a system of networking for students, Fountain Wars also provides social benefits to its members.

“Being a member has helped me expand my circle of friends in our department,” Burns said. “Plus, messing with water is fun.”