Sixty-five freshman students of the University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute (UM-SJTU JI, JI hereafter) gathered with excitement at the spacious Teaching Laboratory in the Long Bin Building. They participated in a Game Day event on the evening of June 14, featuring a shooting competition centered around self-made guns.

Equipped with an array of resources including 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering stations, prototyping tools and hand tools, the students formed 13 teams, each tasked with designing and constructing their own guns. Through rounds of testing and performance data analysis, the teams refined and upgraded their creations, preparing them for the competition. The competition featured two categories, evaluating the range and precision of the self-made guns to determine the shooting distance and accuracy.

A student team discuss about their gun product before the shooting competition.

Two students assemble a gun to take part in a range test.

The Game Day event is part of the VG100: Introduction to Engineering course, which is offered to JI students during their first year of undergraduate study. Recognized as a first-class exemplary English course by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission in 2022, VG100 adopts a student-centered, project-oriented curriculum that integrates theory, design, and practice. It serves to provide a comprehensive education platform for cultivating students’ engineering awareness, practical ability, innovation spirit and teamwork capabilities, according to Associate Professor Shane Johnson, a key member of the JI faculty team for the course.

Professor Johnson examines a gun product and discusses with students.

“VG100 is a star course of JI and has a lot of popularity. We encourage students to engage in meaningful projects and explore their community to identify problems and potential solutions. The course not only exposes them to real engineering but also teaches them how to work effectively in groups. They learn leadership, project management, organization, and the importance of delivering results,” he said.

Professor Johnson further emphasizes the intention behind the gun-themed Game Day event, stating, “Many high school students have experienced a forced approach to studying. Now, we want to welcome them to the university environment and convey the message that passion is crucial for personal growth. While studying is essential, it’s equally important to find excitement and enthusiasm in one’s pursuits. By engaging in enjoyable activities, we can guide students towards their next steps and encourage them to showcase their achievements.”

“In the end, an important outcome of this course is that students gain confidence and develop a passion for engineering. At the Joint Institute, we strive for individuals to love what they do and do what they love,” said Professor Johnson.

A student aims the gun of his team at the target in the shooting competition.

Range test of the competition

Precision test of the competition