Three men work on a prototype
Students pitched their solutions to professionals from Park Industries Sunday afternoon after spending 48 hours coming up with their solutions, building a prototype and preparing their presentations.
The event started with a presentation by Park Industries of five real problems they face every day at their plant — identifying CNC plasma cut parts, matching painted parts with orders, quickly verifying large weldment placements, automating drilling screws on the final assembly line, and automatically verifying drilling processes and minimum cleanup.
Sitting there listening to the problems presented, junior electrical engineering major Megan Wendlandt was excited and nervous about the event.
The problems were challenging and each demanded a different way of thinking to find a solution, she said.
“There were a few problems that completely stumped me when they were presented, and I was in complete awe of the solutions the teams attacking those problems came up with,” she said. “The best part of the challenges was that they were completely real.”
In all, 35 students from nine majors participated in the event designed to give students the chance to tackle real-world industry problems while working in teams that drew their members from different academic disciplines.
The winning team
The winning team presented a solution to verify drilling machined part in process verification problem and suggested a solution using a laser and power meter that acts as a sensor by determining the amount of light hitting the detector. The team includes:
- Hissamuddin Shaikh, software engineering
- Caitlyn Casper, Entrepreneurship
- Subi Dangol, Computer Science
- Matthew Thomas, Physics (Emphasis in Astrophysics)
- Jonathan Oleson, Mechanical Engineering
- Rhyan Manthey, Computer Engineering
Round the clock mentors
During the event the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF) was open around the clock for the students to use equipment and prototyping and fabrication labs. Faculty members Mark Petzold, Jamie Heiman, Mark Schroll and Matt Vorell joined with experts from Park Industries as mentors and technical resource experts to aid student teams in developing their designs and presentations.
“I greatly enjoyed discussion our plans for the prototype with the engineers from Park Industries,” said Subi Dangol, a computer science major who was on the winning team. “We got to work with some professors who guided us very well. We were working with one of the professors on a project that was not related to our classes until 4 a.m., and I don’t think many people get this kind of opportunity.”
“Overall, we got to utilize our knowledge and skills and learned a lot form this event. I am looking forward to more events like this.”
Kyle Cielinski, a junior manufacturing engineering management major, knows just how real those problems are at Park Industries. He’s interned at the plant for two summers and has seen how Park Industries workers have been affected by the problems.
“That’s why I chose the paint line, I’m really familiar with it,” Cielinski said. “The identification of parts has been a problem for a while, so I was excited to personally help with a solution for that.”
The team’s solution involved using barcode scanners to identify parts as they go onto the paint line and then checking them off as they are moved on to the next step in the process.
With prototyping, writing a paper, making a video and planning a presentation, the team got little sleep. From 8 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday the team focused on their project taking only brief breaks for naps or Netflix.
“It wasn’t a lot of rest, but that little bit of a break is what got us through — that and the caffeine,” he said.
Hard work and fun
Facing these problems takes the concepts students are learning in class and brings them into a real world setting where their solutions might make a difference at an actual company — it was hard work but tackling that real-life problem also made it fun, Cielinski said.
“We signed up for it thinking it’ll be good for a resume, it might be a lot of hard work, it might get stressful, but we ended up just having a blast the whole time,” he said.
Wendlandt’s team tackled a similar problem looking at how to identify parts after they are removed from the plasma table.
“In the 48 hours we worked on the problem, I was able to learn a new coding language to utilize the camera for our prototype, and I can’t think of any other situation where I would be able to do something like that,” Wendlandt said. “Not only were we trying to solve problems for the company, but we were able to learn new things that I likely wouldn’t have done otherwise. It was a challenging, exhausting weekend, but I’ve never done something more rewarding.”
Whereas now operators currently identify the parts by memory, the solution Wendlandt’s team suggested would have them using an edge-detecting camera to recognize the part and print a label that could be attached to the part to identify it by part and order.
Every group came up with a solution of some sort and had working prototypes, said Lyle Pedersen, Park Industries manufacturing manager.
“We’re actually already looking at some of the solutions they came up with and looking at implementing variations of them here,” he said. “It gave us lots of ideas to help solve the problems.”
Winning project excites Park Industries
The winning team presented a solution for the machined part in process verification problem and suggested a solution using a laser and power meter that acts as a sensor by determining the amount of light hitting the detector. Their solution would be connected to the computer program to actively monitor the surface of the material to automatically verify that the part has been appropriately milled and the holes and pockets are drilled completely.
“The team that worked on it really had some unique applications of technology that I had never seen before, and, if it works, it by far has the greatest potential to help our guys and make us a lot more efficient team,” Pedersen said.
Dangol attributes the success to the diversity of student experiences. The team was made up of astrophysics, mechanical engineering, entrepreneurship and computer science majors, who also came from different ethnic backgrounds, Dangol said.
“We spent 36 hours together working on the model that we brainstormed together, and I made some great friends,” Dangol said. “Knowing that our prototype was selected to be pursued really gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities and made the experience really rewarding.”
Their solution will be the basis of Mark Petzold’s ECE 260 class, which will take what the team produced as its central focus with students working to refine and develop it as far as possible toward a marketable product.
This will continue the mentorship by professors and Park Industries that occurred during Huskies Invent and continue it for an entire semester.
This solution had the most potential for Park Industries, but all the students did an incredible job and came up with cool solutions to these problems, Pedersen said.
“The opportunity for Park Industries to work with St. Cloud State, was a great opportunity for business and education to work together and help bridge the gap,” he said. “It was very interactive. … It was inspirational — the whole event was.”