Engineering Students Grasp The Iron Ring

June 13, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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Engineering students at Grand Valley State Universitys Padnos School of Engineering are getting real-life experience before they actually set out into the real world.
Seniors in the program recently completed the Capstone Design Program, in which teams of senior engineering students solve engineering design problems sponsored by participating industries and organizations.

On Friday, Aug. 3, students had a chance to demonstrate their work at a daylong design conference. The conference celebrates the completion of the projects, which take two semesters to finish. At this point, the companies that participate have a working product.

They gain a lot of experience that theres just no way you can deal with in the classroom, said Jeff Ray, assistant professor in the Padnos School. The things they learn are not possible to learn in a classroom environment. For example, what do you do when you dont get along with everyone and your parts dont arrive on time? Conflict resolution cannot be something someone tells you about, you have to experience it.

The only cost for the businesses is for materials. The students are not paid for their work but instead gain college credit and real-life working experience.

Fridays celebration began with a Canadian practice called the Iron Ring ceremony. The event is a special commencement ritual for engineering students, whose graduation is later in the year than the traditional spring ceremony because they must complete the co-op program that lasts into the summer.

In the ceremony each student receives an iron ring, placed on the little finger of the working hand, which symbolizes bridging the step between training and experience.

Twenty-seven students received the Iron Ring and completed projects for local companies including American Seating, Benteler Automotive, Goodrich Inc., Lacks Exterior Systems and the Padnos School.

Receiving the Iron Ring culminates the two-semester project that begins with classes on situations students might encounter during the development process and then moves right into developing a proposal for the company, presentation of the proposal, construction and presentation of the finished product to the company and the public at the conference.

We have weekly team meetings with myself and the team. The faculty serves as consultants along with advisers in the industry, who are there for any advice needed, regarding anything, said Ray.

In one project, the goal was to economically and environmentally reduce waste for American Seating. Students Philip Jaquish, Kevin Lakowski, Cliff Lewis, Joel Oostdyk, Chris Spikes and Jeff Willner solved the problem with their Automated Adhesive Application System. With the companys former process, there was excessive spray that went beyond the edge of the fabric and became waste because it was a manual process. To minimize waste, the team built an automated system.

Benteler Automotive Corp. was looking for a device to measure the thickness of inline tube walls and was pleased with the one created by Brian Crouch, Kent Fannin, John Sanford, Ryan Snip and Tia Stanley. The project resulted in a device to automatically check the wall thickness of steel tubes prior to shipment to customers, in order to reduce the possibility of a tube with wrong dimensions being welded and shipped.

Mike Cool, Peter Dewitt, John Dodge, Dave Nagy and Lisa Stadler created the Eliminating Read-Through in Injection Molding Process for Lacks Exterior Systems. The purpose of the project is to provide research information concerning problems Lacks had with read-through in the molded plastic parts it supplies.

Another project, an altitude/temperature chamber, was designed for BF Goodrich Inc. by Aron Bazen, Eric Fleischmann, Josh Hoekstra, Aaron Miller, Laura Smith and Bonnie Taylor. The new altitude chamber will permit Goodrich to collect more data and allow enhanced control of the chamber pressure and temperature, and provide an in-depth look at how products behave.

Padnos School was the last project, where Wade Bernreuter, Brian Bialk, Jayme Dood, Brian Malkowski and Chris Williams created a combined loading apparatus.

The apparatus will apply any combination of internal pressure, torsion and bending to a pressure vessel and automatically control them. The device also measures the strain being applied to the apparatus.

According to Ray, every company involved with the program indicated it was pleased with the work students performed.

The question was, Were the students able to apply their knowledge to create physical realizations of their theoretical concepts? And the comment was, This was done with confidence and professionalism. They also stayed focused on the goal. So when you hear comments like this, it just makes you go, all right!

Next year the program expects 50 to 60 students and hopes to expand even more in the future.

There are opportunities out here for other departments. Our students could always use help developing a business plan and these ideas need to be marketed, so why not join with the Seidman School of Business for those aspects? Ray asked.

After projects are proposed, approved and created, they have to be put into use at the companies they were designed for.

American Seating hopes to have its new adhesive spraying system operational by the end of the week.

Students are also expected to write a users manual and train employees on how to use the new process. And with this high level of expectation and learning comes job prospects.

One company said if you are interested in moving to the east side of the state, leave your resume, said Ray. This project is an excellent source of exposure and training. It is a rite of passage.

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