May 15, 2006
SENIOR DESIGN PROJECTS GIVE STUDENTS REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE
SALINA – Senior year is hardly about slacking off for seniors in the mechanical engineering technology program at Kansas State University at Salina. During their last year in the bachelor’s degree program, mechanical engineering technology students work on real-world design projects for area companies.
“These projects are really fantastic,” said Greg Spaulding, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology. “They are interesting to the students and relevant to the real world. And it’s very common for the student projects to actually be adopted by the companies on a permanent basis.”
Each project begins with the students organizing into groups and choosing a project from a list of several that area companies have supplied. The groups then work with the companies to obtain more information about the problem that they will be tackling and establish a set of criteria. This year’s projects represented top companies, including Halliburton, Kelso Oil Co., KASA Industrial Controls, Premier Pneumatics, Tony’s Pizza Service and the Grasshopper Co.
With a project problem in mind, student teams then begin to design a solution. After countless hours of work, the design is ready to transform into a prototype through the use of such tools as lathes, mills, welders, drills, laser cutters and various other machines.
The prototype then undergoes extensive testing. During this period, each group meets with the company to discuss the design. Several prototypes may be created until the group gets their design just right. A final product is then created and submitted to the company. The project is complete when each group compiles a final report.
A wide range of projects come from the various companies that participate with the department. Three students collaborated with Kelso Oil Co. on a project to design a new powered rod tong, a hydraulically powered tool used to loosen sucker rod assemblies in oil wells. The current rod tongs that the company uses are heavy and hard to handle.
Kelso wanted rod tongs that are light enough to handle by hand, ergonomically designed, are simple and light and are easily adaptable.
The group spent a total of two semesters on the project. They went out during the fall semester to observe an oil derrick to see rod tongs in action. K-State at Salina graduate Bruce Kelso, the group’s contact at Kelso Oil, brought in equipment to test the mechanism. The company also provided a hydraulic power supply for the students to use in the design and testing phases.
Jason Frazier, Salina, on of the students who worked on the Kelso project. said, “Overall, this project provided a positive teamwork experience. It allowed the group to participate in an actual industry project from beginning to end.”
Shannon Gustafson, Wilson, and Ryan Cahill, Leawood, worked closely with KASA Industries to create a demonstration platform for some of their industrial controls. The group designed a device that counts and dispenses four different colors of M&Ms.
KASA officials requested hat the device had to be portable, and able to dispense one M&M at a time – in the color of the customer’s choosing. The design that the team came up with consists of Plexiglas, and includes motorized rotating discs that meter the candy.
Overall, mechanical engineering technology students said they believed the senior design projects were worthwhile.
“These projects help show to prospective employers that each person has experience completing involved projects,” Gustafson said.