College of Science, Engineering, & Technology: Mechanical Engineering Program Kicks Off, New Building in the Works

By Autumn Nuzman

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. David Christensen helps students with a project in the prototyping and coding lab.

In the fall of 2018, DSU started its Mechanical Engineering program. This exciting new program offers a Maker Certificate, an Associate of Science in Pre-Engineering (APE), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME).

“The best thing about these degrees is that they stack onto each other,” said David Christensen, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. The Maker Certificate focuses on 12.5 credits of coding and design classes, all of which can be applied toward the APE degree, and classes from the APE degree can be applied toward the BSME degree.

Christensen said, “[As part of the Maker Certificate, students] learn how to design 3D objects in the computer using SolidWorks. They learn how to design linkages, gear trains, and cams. They also learn to prototype their designs using various machines and processes such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, vinyl cutters, injection molding, vacuum forming, welding, casting, electroplating, composite laying, and post-processing techniques for 3D prints. They even learn to program microcontrollers to take data from sensors, process that data, and move motors. Essentially, students learn to take their ideas and make a prototype.”

The Mechanical Engineering program has a heavy focus on robotics, also known as mechatronics, and manufacturing. On April 23, 2019, engineering and maker students will showcase their knowledge and abilities in these areas at Dixie Design Day with activities such as a robotic golf demonstration.

The robotic golf demonstration is part of the freshman project attached to MECH 1200/1205 and involves students teaming up to design and prototype robotic obstacles that interact with the golf ball in order to provide an entertaining experience for golfers. Each team starts with three modular and customizable mini golf course panels with modular terrain, and each sub-team is assigned to a panel. Each team must arrange the panels and terrain to form a mini golf course hole and agree on a cohesive theme to which the obstacles of each sub-team must conform.

Christensen said, “As an example, a sub-team with a seashore or bay theme could prototype a continuously rocking ship that launches the golf ball out of its cannon if the golf ball reaches the ship’s deck. On Dixie Design Day, the public will be invited to play on and rate the miniature golf courses.”

For final project competitions at the end of the semester, students work in teams of four to design and prototype a water-powered conveyor system to move game balls from pipe 1 to the goal. The conveyor system is comprised of four subsystems: a water power converter, mechanism one, mechanism two, and mechanism three.

The water power converter captures the energy from water being pumped from the water bucket with a water wheel or turbine to turn a three-stage gear train. The gear train attaches to and powers mechanisms 1, 2, and 3 via a timing belt. Mechanisms 1, 2, and 3 move the game ball from pipe 1 to pipe 2, pipe 2 to pipe 3, and pipe 3 to the goal bucket, respectively.

A lot of expansion has occurred within the program and some of it is still ongoing. For instance, the prototyping and coding lab, introduced in the spring of 2019, is home to 23 3D printers and was expanded over winter break with soldering stations for MECH 1200/1205.

“We acquired 11 3D printers prior to spring 2018 and 12 more prior to fall 2018,” Christensen said. “3D printers are one of the many tools that makers and engineers use to prototype.”

These 3D printers aren’t just used for making engineering-related projects, though. Some students have made more artistic objects such as vases and topographical maps of the Grand Canyon and Idaho.

In the fall of 2019, a circuits lab will be added that houses equipment such as oscilloscopes, function generators, power supplies, and bench-top digital multimeters. The capabilities of this lab will be expanded in spring 2020 with data acquisition units and comprehensive materials testers.

Also, a new Science, Engineering, & Technology (SET) building is currently being designed and if the Utah Legislature appropriates funding to the project, construction is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2019. The SET building will be home to engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, and geology labs and classrooms.

Exciting new things are in the works for DSU’s Mechanical Engineering program, and all of the classes in the Maker Certificate are open to students of any major as well as to the public.

DSU has asked the Utah State Legislature for funding to build a Science, Engineering & Technology building to house the University's growing programs.