Future Is Now For Calvin Engineers

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Calvin College unleashes its engineering graduates on the world this month, all 68 students can list some practical experience on their resumes.

That’s because the college’s engineering department requires that students participate in the Senior Design Seminar, now in its 17th year.

The students, whether they are in civil, mechanical, electric/computer or chemical engineering, are divided into teams.

They then choose projects (with faculty approval) that represent something fun, something for local industry, is service-oriented or is for a Third World country, said Rich DeJong, chairman of the engineering department.

Professors in the department said the exercise combines both theory and concept with practical real-life experience, giving the students skills they can use in their job search and eventual careers.

Saturday, May 5, was a chance for the students to demonstrate the work they had done and what their project was all about.

The festivities included an open house in Calvin’s engineering building between 4-6 p.m., where students displayed their work for the public. Following was a banquet for the students, families and local business professionals, which was followed by a formal demonstration by each of the seven teams.

The Overpass Protectors group, comprised of Scott Veltman, Scott Witte, Ted Gerken and Brian Apotheker, created a hands-free device to measure the height of a load on a flatbed truck as it leaves a facility. The device would notify the driver of the clearance of the truck in order to avoid collisions with low bridges. The team accomplished this through the use of an array of 24 infrared emitters and receivers. The prototype scales it down to even measure the height of a person.

Biodiesel, the team made up of Kathy Buist, Nate DeMaster and Mike Dokter, addressed a specific problem for JAARS, an organization that provides technical support to bible translation groups, and Mission Aviation Fellowship. The mission air transporters are concerned that aviation fuel may not be available — or be cost-prohibitive — in the next 20 years. A blend called Biodiesel may be the solution. It is an alternative fuel that can be produced from vegetable oils and alcohol, with lye as the catalyst, by a transesterification process. The team designed both a small-scale plant for the mission field and a large-scale plant that would produce fuel for the world.

The Upper Hand team, including Jeremy Barbour, Paul Bosscher, Brian DeJong and Ben Hekman, worked on designing and prototyping a robotic gripping tool for use by Lacks Enterprises’ Motoman series robots. The use of the tool is to pick and place plastic molded parts. It was designed with a variable pressure setting to ensure that adequate, yet sensitive, gripping force is applied. The finished product includes a final design description, prototype robotic hand, user interface (including an LCD) and a user’s manual.

The No Sweat team of Mark Adama, Marcus Byeman, Dane Prins and Matt Van Wyhe worked to build a low-cost cooling system for missionaries Larry and Rose Van Zee in Nigeria. Being a Third World country, there are many constraints on this design, DeJong said. The device is an evaporative cooler (swamp cooler) that runs off of battery power and consumes around 4 amps of energy. A tested prototype will be shipped to Nigeria for use.

The Urban Cowboys, including Benjamin McCloskey, Nathan Vriesman, Josh Standfest, Geoff Aggen and Dan Lewis, have worked to revamp the Grand Rapids Mackay-Jaycee Park located on the northwest corner of 28th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue. The team’s objective was to redesign the existing detention basin and add asphalt nature trails with educational signs. The final goal is the creation of a more aesthetically pleasing pond area and improvements to on-site hydraulics to decrease downstream flooding.

The Capital Gaines team, comprised of Peter Todd, Jeff Oonk, Frank Voss and Bill Parton, focused on the design of a hypothetical township office facility based upon the needs of Gaines Township. In doing so, they have designed both the structural and mechanical aspects of the building. This building is included on the site plan of team No. 17, called Gaine-ing Ground.

Gaine-ing Ground’s Brent Bode, Rob Buchanan, Ben Knoop, Jeremy Kramer and Kyle Reidsma developed a site plan for the development of 80 acres of property at the southwest corner of 84th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue in Gaines Township. The township recently purchased the property with the plan of building a township hall building, fire station, sheriff substation, courthouse, library and non-motorized nature trail on the property.

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