Engineers eat fill at free lunch

Free Food Day marks the beginning and end of each semester.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch has not met a member of MU’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Hot dogs, chips and chili filled a long table in front of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering office at MU’s Thomas and Nell Lafferre Hall on Friday afternoon. A warm grill and a bag of charcoal sat outside the building in the cold weather. The scene was more reminiscent of a barbecue than a January school day, but for the society, the two are interwoven.

The society holds Free Food Day at the beginning and end of each semester. The organization makes hot dogs and chili for all engineering majors. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Students stopped by the table after their classes. Civil engineering graduate student Eric Hollabaugh has attended Free Food Day about five times.

“I’m always excited when I walk by and see that it’s Free Food Day,” Hollabaugh said.

Society President Sam Huff said the organization buys 240 hot dogs and makes about eight gallons of chili each time they hold the event. Free Food Day is one of the society’s biggest events of the semester. Huff said the organization spent $250 from the Industrial Advisory Council to feed about 100 students. They often run out of food.

“Once word gets out, everything goes fast,” said society adviser Gary Solbrekken. “Everything is gone by 12:30 p.m.”

Solbrekken, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has been a society adviser for a year. He said he considers the event a great service for the department.

“Being at a university of this size, it’s easy to get lost,” Solbrekken said. “This helps undergraduates feel a sense of community and to interact with faculty in a different capacity.”

Free Food Day has been a society tradition for about seven years, said Rick Whelove, director of undergraduate studies for mechanical and aerospace engineering. The Free Food Day at the beginning of the semester started as a way for students to meet their professors early on. The society added the second Free Food Day of the semester as an additional treat for the engineering students.

“At the end of the semester, students are always broke and pretty well overwrought,”

Whelove said. “Why not give them a day of free food?”

For members of the society, Free Food Day is an opportunity to create a sense of community among engineers.

“We do it to get students involved and students and professors together,” Huff said. “It also gives us some exposure.”

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