A team of Purdue University North Central students recently had the experience of a lifetime when they participated in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Student Design Competition.
Students Ruben Serrano, of Michigan City; Obadiah Lachmann, of Valparaiso and Tom Delisio, of Valparaiso, all Mechanical Engineering Technology majors, traveled to Madison, Wisc. to join teams of college and university students from the 13-state Midwest ASME District for the student design competition and ASME Student Professional Development Conference. The conference brings together hundreds of students for the opportunity to learn more about the engineering field, to network with peers and to take part in competition that tests their knowledge and abilities.
“March Madness has a different meaning for our senior students in Mechanical Engineering Technology,” said Edward Vavrek, PNC associate professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology and faculty advisor for the PNC team. “It’s crunch time as our students get ready for the annual ASME Design Competition. Our students learn project management, engineering and team building skills. We also have the opportunity to enjoy a full weekend of activities.”
The competition is intended to provide students with a platform to present their solutions to a range of design challenges presented by ASME. The tasks present real-world challenges similar who what some engineers encounter on the job – from everyday household tasks to groundbreaking space exploration.
According to the ASME web site, “The competition showcases the extraordinary talents of mechanical engineering students while encouraging them to develop innovative ideas towards an improved quality of life.”
This year the students were asked to design an unmanned air vehicle (drone) capable of carrying cargo through two gates, dropping the payload and returning. The aircraft had to meet exacting specifications using specified materials. It also needed to perform around and through obstacles, change height and go thru a hoop.
Delisio decided he wanted to take part in the competition after hearing about it from students who competed last year. After doing some research, he knew this would become his PNC Senior Design project. He asked other students if they wanted to join him and Serrano and Lachmann quickly agreed. They’ve known each other for several years and felt up to the challenge.
Each brought a different skill set to the competition. For example, Serrano, an Air Force veteran, found his knowledge of aircraft useful.
Delisio noted that the team spent hours doing research on how to best create a durable object that was lighter than air yet capable of lifting considerable weight and able to perform complex functions.
“We learned how to apply our problem-solving skills and trouble-shooting skills,” said Lachmann. “We had to meet a strict deadline, which added to the challenge.”
None of the team members were fluent in programming and ultimately they were helped out by PNC student Jon Wilhelm, an Electrical & Computer Engineering Technology major.
Even though the PNC students put many hours into the aircraft and designed and built it to specifications, once they got to the competition, they found they needed to change a switch. With little time to waste, they started talking to other teams to gather spare parts. Luckily, another team offered valuable advice on how to improvise a working switch that met the design standards, said Lachmann.
“It was great to see how everyone’s skills came together for the competition,” he continued. “It was a great experience.”
While all of the students and their faculty advisors were there for the competition, the team members found that meeting and networking with other students and professionals was as valuable to them as the competition.
“It was a tremendous opportunity to speak to other engineers, ask questions and learn,” said Serrano. ”It was really rewarding to take part in the competition and it was a thrill to see it fly.”
“I’m happy we were part of the competition,” said Delisio.”I’ve learned a lot in all of my engineering classes at PNC, but I think this is the most that I’ve taken away from a class. These skills will help all of us in our careers.”