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Alumni Cohen and Taylor Serve as EOH Judges

Every year, Engineering Open House (EOH) greets thousands of visitors who walk the halls of the buildings on the engineering campus. It is a great way to showcase the ingenuity and creativity of students.

Ira Coeh (left) and Ken Taylor (right). Cohen's wife Debra (center) also served as an EOH judge.
Ira Coeh (left) and Ken Taylor (right). Cohen's wife Debra (center) also served as an EOH judge.

Students involved in EOH take part in competitions throughout the event. To evaluate these projects for these competitions the EOH committee relies on alumni who come back to campus to serve as judges. This year 60 Illinois alumni participated in EOH as judges.

Two CS @ ILLINOIS alumni who participated in this year’s EOH were Ira Cohen (BS CS ‘80) and Ken Taylor (BS CS ’81). “I have always enjoyed EOH, both as a student and as a parent,” said Taylor. “I wanted to give back to the university, and this was a fun way to support Engineering at Illinois.”

Cohen has served as an EOH judge more than 20 times, and he has enjoyed the experience greatly. “Engineering is such a dynamic field,” he said. “The exposure to the current areas of exploration is always exciting.”

Though he hasn’t served as many times as Cohen, Taylor has also been a judge several years, and there are always projects he is looking forward to seeing year after year: “There are so many fantastic exhibits that are on my must-see list: the Physics Van Lecture Demos, the robots in the AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition, and the Rube Goldberg Machines.”

Though they are CS alumni, Taylor and Cohen judged exhibits from departments across the College of Engineering. Judges went out in groups of three to five from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the Friday of EOH. This year, 220 exhibits were judges for 15 possible awards.

What makes a successful EOH exhibit? “Creativity and enthusiasm are big factors,” said Taylor. “Also, I like to see a group effort where more than one person can explain the aspects of the exhibit.”

In addition to these things, Cohen also looks for an “ability to communicate in terms that a non-engineer can understand.” If the project was done as part of a class or is based on some project from the past, Cohen wants to see that something new has been done with the project.

When not actively judging exhibits, Taylor enjoys “the enthusiasm of the students. It’s contagious and it helps remind you how important it is to have fun while learning.” Cohen agreed: “Just being in the city and seeing the students at work and the volume of students throughout the state who come to visit EOH is a reason to keep coming back.”

Alumni who are interested in judging at future EOHs should keep an eye on the website. Information on signing up as an alumni judge typically goes up in October.

Jordan Baczynski, EOH director of judging and awards and a student in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, said, “Each year, the alumni participation in Engineering Open House continues to increase significantly. Many of them have been personally involved with EOH in the past or previously exhibited during their undergraduate career. Their help is essential to making EOH the exciting event it is.”