Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Eighth-graders become engineers in Lehigh manufacturing class

Lehigh’s fourth annual Manufacturing Expo had just ended and the shouting and excitement were still dying down around the fountain outside Packard Lab.

Andrew Lee, an eighth-grader at Broughal Middle School, clutched a second-place trophy and reflected on what he had learned about engineering the past three years at Lehigh.

"The engineering process is very in-depth, very long-term and very tedious," said Lee. "You come up with a lot of ideas, there’s a lot of trial and error, and hopefully you get the product you want."

Lee and another Broughal eighth-grader, Jeff Labarge, joined three Lehigh juniors majoring in mechanical engineering – Dave Lutz, Mike Koerner and Ben Coppola – to design and make a matchbox car for the Manufacturing Expo.

Their team, "Team Rocket," finished second in the race, losing by a whisker to "Sponge Bob," a car inspired by a Nickelodeon cartoon character that was created by Broughal eighth-graders Jenna Martin and Oriana Nerino and Lehigh mechanical engineering juniors Eric Binter, Bill Brine and Bill Guglielmo.

Twenty-six teams took part in the Expo. Each consisted of Broughal eighth-graders in Lori Cirucci’s science classes and Lehigh juniors enrolled in the manufacturing course in the mechanical engineering and mechanics department.

The Broughal students did the initial concept sketches of the miniature cars and painted the final product. The Lehigh students used computer-aided design software to convert the sketches into 3-D models and used Fused Deposition Modeling to make rapid prototypes. Then they designed and fabricated molds from aluminum plates and injection-molded the car bodies.

The class gives Lehigh students a chance to design and make a product from start to finish, while learning to use state-of-the-art equipment. And it gives Broughal students a chance to learn first-hand about engineering, a career that is seldom shown on TV or in the movies.

This was the third year Lee was involved in the Expo. Two years ago, as a sixth-grader, he attended the race and helped judge the cars’ creative design. Last year, when the Expo was revised to enable the Broughal students to play a greater role, Lee’s team, "G Posse," won the race.

The dimensions of the matchbox cars were tiny – Team Rocket’s car weighed in at 40 grams and Sponge Bob’s at a mere 34 grams – but the challenges in designing and machining them were often imposing.

"We were the second group to machine our car," said Guglielmo. "The first group went over schedule and bumped us back, so we didn’t get started until 9 p.m. We went until 4:30 a.m. It took that long because of the complexity of our design; it has a lot of curves and different geometries."

Several teams spent the greatest part of their time designing and re-designing their cars with the CAD software, a process that the Broughal students got a chance to watch up close.

"We originally wanted to make our car look like a bobsled," said Labarge, "but we realized that would be too slow, so we changed to a rocket. It was pretty hard working with the x-y-z lines on the CAD machine."

Once again, the Expo was a festive affair. For the second year in a row, it was emceed by local radio personality and Nascar enthusiast Bobby Gunther Walsh. An enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 included Lehigh President Gregory Farrington, Provost Ron Yoshida and Mohamed El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

The families of several students also attended, including the mother, three sisters and three brothers of Justin Lockman ’04, whose team, "Gone in 0.60 Seconds," finished third.

The manufacturing class is taught by David Angstadt, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, under the supervision of two mechanical engineering and mechanics professors, Herman Nied and John Coulter, and with invaluable assistance from Herman Baader, an engineering technician and veteran of many a late night in mechanical engineering’s Dravo machine shop.

Angstadt received an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Graduate Teaching Fellowship to teach the manufacturing class this year.

Last year, ASME gave the course an honorable mention in a curriculum innovation contest in recognition of the matchbox car project and the participation of the Broughal students.

Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Friday, May 17, 2002

share this story: