Students’ Design Skills Take on New Dimension

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Freshman mechanical engineering student John Czarnecki shows off the miniature motorcycle created through SolidWorks design software and 3-D printing technology.

Still Going Strong: For 49 years, students from throughout the country have been coming to Rose-Hulman during the summer to experience Operation Catapult, a fun dive into science, engineering and math projects.

What good is an elaborate widget design if it is can’t be manufactured? That’s the valuable lesson nearly half of first-year engineering students learned last fall while using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create solid models of mechanical parts and personal-interest projects.

Mechanical engineering professor John Mirth revised the institute’s Graphical Communications course to highlight “design intent” concepts. This mindset forces the student to anticipate how their designs will be used and potentially modified by others in order to be produced.

Mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, engineering physics and physics students were given the task of creating a solid model of a bicycle disk break rotor. The design was graded on its flexibility to change the number of spokes and the pattern of the holes, and the ease in which these changes can be made.

“This is a more difficult challenge than simply creating a solid model of a given part,” says Mirth.

Mechanical engineering professor Rick Stamper, one of five course instructors across the 11 class sections, notes that CAD allows engineers to:

  • Showcase creativity
  • Create new and interesting products
  • Create models that can be used to simulate a product in a virtual world before you spend the resources to create a physical product
  • Create a model that can provide insights into a design
  • Create value

Mechanical engineering student John Czarnecki used SolidWorks software to create a scale model of a motorcycle, showcasing the vehicle’s tube frame, wheels and exposed engine. The project required nearly 40 hours of meticulous work on his laptop computer. He used a picture of a custom motorcycle as well as a bare frame to get a basic idea of the shape, components and style to create his own design. Czarnecki modified the frame design four times before being satisfied with the right style.

“I started with the frame to base all the other dimensions and then made the rear wheel and tire, the engine, rear tire cover and seat. Then the front fork, wheel, tire and headlamp came next. I put the gas tank on last. After the shape was finished, I added the visual effects,” he says.

Michaela Kivett, a freshman biomedical engineering student, created a scale 3-D model of Rome’s legendary colosseum in a Graphical Communications course.

Model Student: Michaela Kivett, a freshman biomedical engineering student, created a scale 3-D model of Rome’s legendary colosseum in a Graphical Communications course.

Meanwhile, biomedical engineering student Michaela Kivett drew from her visit to Rome’s Colosseum to capture details of the legendary amphitheater for her model.

“I picked the Colosseum because the thought of building one of my favorite ancient structures on a computer really intrigued me,” she remarks. “The design was modified along the way due to complications with the design, but in the end it did not deviate greatly from my original plan.”

Other students created 3-D models featuring Star Wars and Harry Potter items, a chessboard and pieces, and a variety of campus buildings.

“I was able to use my creativity and imagination to solve problems and build new things,” Kivett says. “It was a great introduction to my Rose-Hulman career.”

Upper-class students are learning about 3-D additive manufacturing technology (commonly known as 3-D printing) through senior design capstone projects sponsored by GE Appliances. The students are allowed to use the company’s capabilities in their projects; some students taking design courses have toured the firm’s Rapid Prototyping Center facilities. Nick Okruch, a Rose-Hulman alumnus who is the center’s manager, has been a guest campus lecturer on 3-D printing technology.

Also, several of Rose-Hulman’s competition race teams have used SolidWorks software to design parts for vehicles to be used during the 2017 competition season.