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Over 30 mechanical engineering majors in the Manufacturing and Design class will race mini-dragsters noon today on a 26-foot track in the Marlo Room of Farinon College Center.

Ten teams of three or four students – 34 students total — each designed, built, and tested battery-powered mini-dragsters for the course, which is taken primarily by sophomore mechanical engineering students, as well as juniors who miss it while taking Lafayette’s study abroad program in Belgium.

Class instructors are Ira Katz, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Rebecca L. Rosenbauer, director of Computer-Aided Engineering Laboratories. In addition, students work with four mechanical engineering technicians.

The students picked their own teams, each of which had $200 available for purchase of parts such as the motor, batteries, and raw materials. The teams also could use 16 hours of machine time at $60 per hour, making the maximum total budget for each car $1,160.

Students are provided a motor, motor mount bracket, ten batteries, and battery holders by the instructors to start them off. All design work is done on computer.

The rules and obstacles are changed slightly for each semester’s class. This year, times are adjusted according to how much money in parts and labor the students spent on their entry. In addition, a pendulum awaits cars 36 inches past the finish line to measure the amount of energy transferred if the mini-dragsters strike it. Those that hit the pendulum are penalized accordingly.

Some teams designed braking systems activated by a bar placed above the finish line to lock the front or back wheels and lessen or avoid contact. In the past, some vehicles have braked so precisely that the full length of the car did not cross the finish line. Other unfortunate entries striking the pendulum at too high a speed continue past it and off the racing platform. Students have two minutes between rounds to repair damaged dragsters. Poorly braking cars built to be extremely light for speed face elimination from their lack of durability.

Katz, who taught similar courses at other institutions before coming to Lafayette last fall, is impressed with the college’s commitment to the Manufacturing and Design course.

“Having the resources of this size of a shop with all those technicians and the support on the CAD (computer-aided design) end results in much more involved designs,” he says. “Working directly in the shop with technicians is a great exercise in communication. It’s much more like a real experience as an engineer than most things you see at any school. I’m really impressed with the way those people work with students.”

Manufacturing and Design is required for mechanical engineering students, but is gaining in popularity among students in other engineering disciplines. Course topics include Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), as well as hands-on learning of conventional manufacturing techniques such as milling, turning, and injection molding.

Categorized in: Academic News