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PNC students earn honors in engineering contest

PNC students (from left) Tek Lentine Thomas May II Michael Smeets are pictured with vecicle they designed for annual American

PNC students (from left) Tek Lentine, Thomas May II and Michael Smeets are pictured with the vecicle they designed for the annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition. | Photo provided

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Updated: May 28, 2013 6:18PM



A team of Purdue University North Central students recently earned a third-place finish in their district in the annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition.

PNC students Tek Lentine, Michael Smeets and Thomas May II are all mechanical engineering technology majors who applied what they learned in the classroom to solve the real-world challenge presented for the competition. The challenge was built around the situation faced at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The student teams were asked to create a small, remotely-controlled inspection vehicle that could determine levels of radioactivity and inspect for damage in areas were human operators could not go due to radioactive contamination.

The students were responsible for creating a working vehicle, taking it from concept through completion. At the competition, the battery-operated, remote-controlled vehicle was required to make its way around obstacles, reach inspection points and bring a sensor back to a designated return area. The vehicle would return to its starting location, ready for another run. Complicating things was that the operator would not be able to see the vehicle as it made its way through the course.

This vehicle will be part of PNC College of Engineering and Technology Senior Project Showcase on May 8 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Library-Student-Faculty Building Assembly Hall, Room 02. Senior students from all engineering and technology disciplines will show their work in areas that includes CAD; cars; computers; concrete; electronics; engineering; construction hydraulics; machining; networks; programming; robotics; soil mechanics; solid modeling; surveying and welding.

The PNC students taking part in the ASME competition ended up making two prototypes, explained Tek Lentine, team leader.

“We did some last-minute engineering, but thanks to rapid prototyping processes available to us through the university and some nimbleness on our part, we presented a strong design and placed third of 16 teams at the regional competition.”

The students spent many hours together and found they worked well as a team. “The biggest thing this project taught me was that working in groups helps the process,” noted May.

Lentine, an experienced mechanical engineer, found this to be “a great learning experience. The real world application of the principles that are taught through the ASME Student Design Competition is an invaluable experience that every student should experience.”

There were some unforeseen snarls. The day before leaving, the team set up a full-scale test. While the first two runs went well, on the third run, one motor failed. Without this motor, the vehicle was dead. Lentine immediately got online to order a replacement motor to be shipped directly to their hotel at the competition site. On top of that, a stripped set screw forced them to perform a precision machining operation with a hand drill and pair of pliers in the hotel room the night before the competition.

Team advisor Edward Vavrek, associate professor of mechanical engineering, commended the students, “Their engineering and manufacturing was outstanding. While we always have fun at these competitions, the students take them very seriously and go there to win. They represented PNC well.”

The competition also confirmed the team members’ career choices.

“This degree just called out to me and I am happy it did,” said May. “I enjoy creating things on the computer and learning about how programs work.”



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