AFTON – Area students enrolled in the Northeast Tech (NT) pre-engineering program came together last week to present their Engineering Design and Development Senior Presentations before family and faculty along with industry and community leaders.

Welcoming guests was Dr. Curtis Shumaker, who has served as the NT Afton campus director since July and recently announced planned expansions for NT programs including opening the pre-engineering course to high school sophomore students beginning in 2019.

An overview of the pre-engineering program and student work was then presented by Afton program instructors Jeremy Radebaugh and Trisha Masterson before five teams took turns sharing their final projects giving details on their research, design processes, testing results, and outcomes.

Each project addressed existing real-world problems that the students worked to resolve utilizing the multi-faceted engineering skills they have acquired as pre-engineering students – including advanced math and physics, design, patent research, decision matrixes, live modeling and testing, and even computer programing.

The tools and materials used by the teams were ones available to them through the NT pre-engineering program and also sourced independently by the students. Teams worked with specialized design software, an onsite 3D-printer, erector model sets and even created specialized tools such as a wire winder to complete their work.

The pre-engineering teams also collaborated with students in the NT Afton graphic design program, which designed personalized logos for each group based on their team members and project themes.

Three of the teams also partnered directly with Miami business Hopkins Manufacturing to address desired projects at their plant.

"As far as I know, we are the only pre-engineering program here partnering directly with industry," said Masterson. "These students have been engaged in work that could easily be considered first-year college level. Imagine being able to put that on a resume...that as a high school student you were able to directly partner with industry and offer an engineering solution. This is a truly incredible program."

First to present were Michael Christensen and Andrew Wallace with their "Swarf Slayer" a containment device with a vacuum that fits onto an existing machine at Hopkins to prevent tiny plastic bits, known as swarf, from scattering on the manufacturing floor resulting in product waste and presenting potential safety hazards for workers.

Christensen and Wallace were able to successfully implement the solution, which the company has tested at their plant and plans to implement resulting in a projected annual savings of $3,500 as the captured materials can now be recycled.

The fitted device works by capturing the swarf in an enclosed cover and then being vacuumed into a separate container reducing swarf scattering by about 98 percent, also significantly impacting worker safety.

Next was the only three-person team comprised of Vince Ballard, Joseph Hicks, and James Morris, III with their "Vent Tab Assembly."

The team working with Hopkins took on the task of finding a solution to the installation of a vent tab on plastic oil drain pans manufactured by the company. The part is currently hammered in manually resulting in some product loss due to force damage to the tabs and potential safety hazards such as injuries from the hammer.

Working through several designs, the team settled on a hybrid of two of their ideas with input from Hopkins to create a working prototype that would safely, quickly and accurately install the tabs with a pneumatic or hydraulic cylinder.

Hopkins does plan to work further to refine the device with the students for possible use.

The final Hopkins collaboration came from Dacyn Johnson and Robbie Wilmoth with their "Robotic Pincer Arm." The most challenging of the projects presented by the local manufacturer the team was tasked with finding a way to automate and streamline the process of moving two differently sized and weighted boxes of product onto pallets for storage and distribution.

Like the team before them, the group's selected design was a hybrid of initial ideas that came about after consultation with Hopkins and would be a moving overhead robotic arm pincher that could travel the length of the conveyor where the designated product boxes were completed and moved to a waiting pallet.

Due to the complexity and time constraints of the project and some barriers in the task programming function for the robotic arm, the prototype was not able to be fully completed or tested. However, the team was able to move through the bulk of the project design, programming and construction to gather important data for future refinement, a significant achievement, and part of the reality of the often lengthy process of engineering.

Bothers Kaden and Kashen Gibson presented their "Bright Bins" project a display system that integrates a kiosk-style interface with a multi-storage display unit that lights up to indicate where the searched product is located in the display.

The siblings both work at Ace Hardware, where their experiences stocking and assisting customers inspired the final prototype.

The initial concepts where two separate ones, one a customizable product search program, and the other a more efficient product storage solution. After seeking feedback from Ace and going back to their concepts, the ideas were combined to create "Bright Bins," which Gibsons demoed to an excited audience.

The final project of the evening came from Ben Cloud and Daniel Jacobs presenting a solution for electric guitars called the "Hum Dinger."

When playing an electric guitar there is often an audible hum or buzz that occurs through the amplifier, and while there is a small range of solutions and workarounds to this annoying problem, the team sought to improve on existing products by eliminating some of their limitations.

Their solution was a device that could be installed and wired in that was minimally invasive and therefore less impactive on the value of vintage guitars, more universally applicable across guitar brands, and self-installed under 30 minutes while also reducing the hum.

NT Pre-Engineering Program

NT's pre-engineering program is a two-year academy emphasizing academics and engineering principles to provide students with a strong foundation to excel in a post-secondary engineering pathway, according to the course description.

It requires 960 hours of coursework that includes civil engineering and architecture, aerospace engineering, engineering design, and development, as well as AP calculus and physics.

The curriculum utilized is from Project Lead The Way, which provides lesson plans in the engineering pathway that engages students in compelling, real-world challenges that help them become better collaborators and thinkers.

Classes for the pre-engineering program are currently held on the NT Afton campus and the Claremore and Pryor High School campuses taught by NT instructors and onsite at NTC's Afton campus.