In the news: South Bend students assist local industry
Written by TechPurdue // April 2, 2012 // Admitted Students, Alumni & Friends, Business & Industry, Current Students, Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology, Faculty & Staff, Latest College News, South Bend // No comments
Michiana college students are making valuable contributions to the local economy that go far beyond sales tax collections. Local industry partners have taken notice of this resource and actively seek students in specific disciplines to assist with projects.
AE Techron in Elkhart and Syscon International in South Bend, for example, have worked with the Purdue University College of Technology at South Bend this spring to identify projects for electrical engineering technology students to tackle.
Students enrolled in Project Development and Management, the junior-level team project course, are able to focus on projects that reflect current industry needs. In return, industry partners are able to provide feedback while benefitting from the creativity and enthusiasm of the students.
“We wouldn’t have the manpower to start this project at this time otherwise,” said Tom Thomas, CEO of Syscon International. “We started it once a couple years ago, so I had a project in embryo that was really easy to turn over.”
Syscon designs information systems for manufacturing plants. They asked the Purdue students to work on a project that would use radio frequency identification (RFID) to register a line worker’s approach to the work station. Workers could save time by being identified by a unique RFID tag instead of having to sign in at the work station.
“They’ve gotten us part of the way toward a product that we want, and maybe all the way,” Thomas said. The students will be working on the project through the end of April.
The Purdue students must work within Syscon’s specifications, and they also gain experience working with RFID readers, wireless communications, controllers and more.
“The students get a sense of satisfaction of doing a real project for industry, which is something they can put on a resume,” said Gene Harding, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering technology at the College of Technology at South Bend. “Learning to deal with members of a team is very important. And they are learning about the importance of communication.”
Harding said the students are largely self-directed in this junior-level course. They take the knowledge they learn from previous classes, apply it to their projects, and work with other vendors and experts to fill in any knowledge gaps.
A second team of students is working to create a special power tester for AE Techron. A commercial airplane depends on its engines to help power online systems, lights, ovens, and more. The power supply can fluctuate, too. The student team is helping find ways to test whether those systems continue to work properly as the voltage changes frequency or amplitude.
They are helping to create a device that plugs into the aircraft and tests the power supply within government specifications. To do so, they are programming the controller and designing some of the electronic interface and power switching controls.
“The students and the companies are putting some investment into these projects, in terms of dollars and time,” Harding said. “The students clearly have an appreciation for that. They are engaged, and they want to make sure they hold up their end of the partnership.”