Saturday, August 4, 2012

Engineering Intern loose in the shop

This summer I sponsored a mechanical engineering student intern. It is part of a larger program here to provide some real work experience opportunities to students studying science and engineering. Generally it is just over their summer break where they are assigned a specific project that they work on with their mentors. Kyle was just accepted to the UC Berkeley ME program where he will be coming in as a junior in the fall.

Kyle is working on a project where we use a digital micrometer to monitor superconducting wire diameter and shape as it is re-wound from a annealing spool to a cable making spool. The device takes diameter measurements at one foot intervals for later data analysis. The problem he is working on is the optical non contact micrometer controller does not talk to any of our data collection software in a useful way. His job is to create an interface to collect the signals and data and display the information is a meaningful way.

To do this he is creating the interface in Labview . This software allows you to collect signals from a variety of devices and merge them together in a common interface. It can also do some high level manipulation of the data and display it in a user interface that the programmer creates.

Kyle has been working on the project for a few weeks now. He got stalled for a couple of days because the customer needed the instruments back to do a re-spooling run. He has shown a strong interest in the machine shop operations and asked if he could do a little work in the shop. I have worked with many engineers over the years and I have to say that many of the better ones have spent some time in the shop actually making things. So I was more than happy to oblige.

As part of a change in tactics for our recruiting efforts I have been working on an idea for a mechanical aptitude test. We have nicknamed it the "Busy Box". Kyle helped fabricate some of the parts for the box in the development shop in our building.
Here Kyle is tapping holes in the top plate of the busy box to accept threaded insert bushings. The tool is a shop built hand tapping fixture that keeps everything perpendicular. I never liked it much but it does have its place and is pretty easy to set up as opposed to any machine tool. Also it takes a heck of a lot less time for me to explain how to use it.....
We needed some simple bushings for the busy box so we got set up on one of the small lathes in the shop. This machine is a round dial Monarch 10EE tool-room lathe. It was bought new here in 1943. The drive was retrofitted some time ago to a modern solid state controller, new motor and gearbox. I will post some pictures at some point on this retrofit because whoever did it did a first class job. I suspect one of the machinery repair guys that has long since retired did the work.

Here Kyle is de-burring the Delrin bushings he made on the lathe. They were pretty basic bit he really got a kick out of using some machinery. He asked some really great questions as I showed him the tools and operations. He displays what I think is a critical trait necessary for success in any technical field. When he doesn't understand something he says so. Sounds simple right? You would be shocked to see how many don't admit when they don't get it and simply plow forward thinking the answer will be revealed without having to admit they didn't understand. Kyle is well on his way to making a fine engineer. I look forward to working with him on more technical projects.

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