Every year, the College of Engineering at Boise State participates in multiple competitions through different clubs on campus.
One organization, the Mechanical Engineering Club, is well known for their cybersecurity research, the development of a new way to recycle plastic and bringing in wins representing Boise State’s Engineering department in various competitions
The Mechanical Engineering club won the Human Powered Vehicle Competition (HPVC) last year, in which the club designed and manufactured an innovative gearbox, a type of transmission system that helps change the speed and direction of a bike.
However, after winning the competition in 2022, the Mechanical Engineering Club experienced a setback with their funding. Oliver Macdonald, a Senior studying engineering, is the Mechanical Engineering club’s former President. Macdonald explained that the club’s officers resorted to paying $4,000 out of pocket for the competitions registration fee and parts needed in order to compete.
Macdonald explained that typically these expenses would be covered by ASBSU, but the club received little to no help from ASBSU or the university at that time.
“Over the last year, officers of the BSU Mechanical Engineering Club and I have been working on getting consistent funding for competitive engineering clubs, which directly help students grow their academic potential and technical skills,” Macdonald said. “Engineering clubs in the past have historically put in thousands of dollars out of pocket to make up for the lack of support from the rest of the university. Students wanted to put an end to the cycle so we have started the process of getting continuous support for clubs dedicated to helping students grow skills that are a part of their degree.”
A year later, the College of Engineering and multiple engineering clubs are receiving about $30,000 worth of funding from Boise State through the Student Activity Fee Advisory Board (SAFAB).
“When working with specific people in ASBSU, the options we ultimately took were not presented by those staff members we were working with for over eight months,” Macdonald said. “It took escalating to Dr. Tromp to finally get new usable information that resulted in a meeting attended by one of the main staff members we had worked with.
“The advice that was given to us ultimately led to 10 plus months of wasted time for all parties involved. Our team does not understand how we got sent down so many paths with unfruitful ends when the involved parties should have known the outcome of those paths before providing them to us.”
According to Macdonald, he and his clubmates have had meetings and multiple phone calls with ASBSU dating back to 2021, with the goal of obtaining funding for clubs through the College of Engineering. However, these meetings often led to little or no progress.
The SAFAB funding was finally approved after they were advised to by university President Dr. Marlene Tromp. The College of Engineering Dean, Dr. JoAnn S. Lighty, also agreed to add another $20,000 on top of the $30,000 from the SAFAB funding.
The ASBSU has a standard $4,000 amount to fund clubs, according to Boise State’s website. The SAFAB usually covers larger requests, and often receives them after individuals already interacted with ASBSU.
Former ASBSU President Adam Jones, a junior political science major, shared his perspective on the abnormally long process for the grant and how it could have been improved.
“The best thing for them to do would be to change the funding cap,” Jones said. “I think the restrictions should have been made clear with regard to the cap that various avenues could allocate as such with a large funding request, SAFAB should have been mentioned earlier.”
Macdonald believes that the student government’s system has much to do with the slow process.
“I would like to see more options for students from different colleges to be a part of student government and have a stronger voice,” Macdonald said. “Allowing students like engineers the opportunity to represent themselves during these impactful decisions the student government makes.”
Macdonald shared that ASBSU is open to receiving larger requests in funding for clubs.
“People are working on that in ASBSU, (larger funding requests), but not fast enough to keep up with inflation. In engineering we understand our projects are expensive,” Macdonald said. “Our biggest issue is not that we aren’t getting all of our money from ASBSU, it’s that the cost of our materials and competitions have gone up. Thus, the budget from ASBSU does less and less for us every year.”
With the original grant of $30,000 along with the COEN Dean Lighty agreeing to match $20,000, COEN is set to receive up to $50,000 for their clubs and projects.
However, as new representatives have arrived to ASBSU and to the clubs. Macdonald still had concerns over what the new year may have in store, particularly what he would like to see changed.
“It’s difficult to train officer’s to run the club for the following year when ASBSU rules are interpreted differently, regardless of the written rules,” Macdonald said.
Even so, COEN is aware of their future steps in funding, and seeks to keep providing the best possible for engineering students and Boise State students with their projects.
“I’m extremely excited that (the funding) passed,, and Boise State should be in the business of helping our students succeed and giving our students the opportunity to compete in national competitions does exactly that,” Jones said.