Mec E 360, the “middle child” in a trio of mechanical engineering design courses, is getting a very well deserved recognition with the creation of an award honouring student design excellence by a major international engineering company.
“The idea for an award came about after seeing that Mec E 360 is like the awkward, misunderstood middle child of the design stream. It has more theory than the other two courses, but also requires a major project,” said Professor Jason Carey, who has taught the course for seven years. While its second and fourth year counterparts, Mec E 260 and Mec E 460, have long had significant awards granted to their top design teams, Mec E 360 did not.
All that changed on Thursday, March 22, 2012, when Schaeffler Group, a global leader in the research and manufacturing of bearings, presented the inaugural Schaeffler Group Award for Technical Proficiency and Creativity in Mechanical Engineering Design to the top Mec E 360 student team from the 2010- 2011 school year. Each member of the winning team received $1000 and a plaque, while members from the second place team were recognized with a $250 prize.
The Schaeffler Group, one of the largest family owned companies in Europe, is the manufacturer of the bearing brands INA and FAG, which are well known and highly respected in the machine building industry.
The company also donated a trophy to be permanently displayed within the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The trophy has a wooden base that can be expanded to accommodate future winners, which John Scott, Business Manager of Capital Projects for Schaeffler Canada, explained represents the company’s long-term commitment to the department. “Our hope is to someday see layers and layers of names on the trophy; 100 years from now that trophy should still be being presented,” he said, adding the award is an excellent fit with Schaeffler’s philosophy of recognizing innovation and design excellence.
Mec E 360 not only teaches strong theoretical design concepts, but requires students to complete a large scale design project that develops their hands-on practical design skills. “We have to challenge students to be work-ready thinkers who are ready to challenge the convention to find novel solutions to problems,” said Carey.
Otto Gerum, Schaeffler Group’s VP and General Manager, said Mec E 360 provides students the opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in their day to day schooling. “It’s excellent in terms of supporting students and challenging them to get them to think about what they can do,” Gerum said.
The skills gained from the design project, which is created to mimic a “real world” challenge, will be invaluable throughout the students’ future education and careers, says Scott. “I feel confident the young men and women are well prepared for the design projects that will challenge them in the future,” he said.
Student Caroline Collins, whose team won the top award for their innovative design of a gearbox for a handheld stick blender, agrees the real world emphasis is invaluable.“It pushes students to rethink and optimize their designs, giving the students a glimpse into the level of detail and consideration needed in real world designs.”
“My favorite part of any design course is that it brings engineering concepts together into one cohesive project,” Collins added. “I enjoy how it brings together previous knowledge of basic engineering concepts and material properties with new concepts, such as how to calculate safety factors and how to ensure gears and shafts meet specific safety standards.”
Mitchell Mueller, whose team placed second for their creative design of a gear reducer package for an industrial robotic arm, said the experience increased his confidence with analytical problem solving and machine design. “I have learned to allow myself to be creative when solving problems, and it has provided me with confidence in my abilities to design and create.”
“Every experience I gained in Mec E 360 will follow me into my career as a mechanical engineer. From group work to calculations and report writing, this design project has been a valuable contributor to my education at the University of Alberta, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity,” Mueller said.