Engineering technology students to tackle industry projects

From assisting the Air Force with the design of a portable heavy lift device to prototyping an entrepreneur’s seat belt “Buckle Buddies,” seniors in the mechanical and electrical engineering technology programs are being asked to solve industry problems as part of their yearlong capstone experience.

The 12 real-world projects are part of the requirements of the senior capstone experience. With nearly 30 projects to choose from, student teams were able to select projects to suit their strengths. Their professor, Phillip Sanger, has been working with industry partners for more than a year to identify projects that will test the acumen of the students and provide direct benefits to the partner companies.

“I asked the companies to identify projects that would be nice to have, not what is critical,” Sanger said. “It’s usually a project where the company does not have the resources or knowledge to devote to coming up with a solution. These make great student projects.”

Working with a mentor from the sponsor company, the student teams will develop plans, conduct research, and even create prototypes, depending on the needs of the project. Because of the nature of the class and the projects, students will learn valuable skills they can apply to their jobs after graduation.

“This is an opportunity to synthesize the courses they’ve taken,” Sanger said. “It’s an opportunity to gather all of that knowledge and apply it to an integrative real world experience. The students will also learn lessons in teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, self direction and creative thinking.”

At the end of each semester, the project teams will update the class and their sponsors on their progress. A public viewing of the final products is also planned in the spring.

This is the second year for the interdisciplinary group capstone projects. Only three projects were tackled in the first year. Sanger believes he will have more than 50 projects to choose from next year.

He also hopes to incorporate a global component for a few of the 2014 projects, including team members from partner universities in Germany, France and  Switzerland with international visits and more intense online collaboration.

The main goal for the capstone projects is providing an experience for students that will help them stand out in a job interview.

“It can be their biggest selling point,” Sanger said. “They will be able to go into an interview, break out their project book, and say, ‘I know how to deal with the real world. I can be useful.’”

The 2013-14 projects and their sponsors are:

  • Edge location and control system, Nucor
  • Automatic flatness inspection of cast alternator fans, Littler Diecast
  • Simultaneous temp/pressure controls system for MMR probe station, Purdue Discovery Park
  • Vehicle accelerometer cooler for on-vehicle data acquisition, Faurecia
  • Design studio for noise vibration harshness (NVH) development of automotive exhaust systems, Faurecia
  • Design and build a demo robotics with standardized robotic human machine interface, Lenze
  • Man portable heavy life device for special ops, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Buckle Buddies, Monica Harvey
  • Building wall with two-hour fire rating, Koontz-Wagner
  • Wireless tracking of oxygen lances for the fabrication of steel, Arcelor Mittal
  • Alignment/guidance controls for the truck frame flipping system, General Motors
  • Inspection technique for bone growth substrates, Zimmer
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