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Students Prepare for Engineering Competition

Senior mechanical engineering students at Arkansas Tech University are putting their classroom knowledge into practice as part of a senior engineering project.

Senior mechanical engineering students at Arkansas Tech University are putting their classroom knowledge into practice as part of a senior engineering project.

Students enrolled in Engineering Design are developing, designing and creating an ultra energy-efficient vehicle to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition.

The annual competition challenges students to create a fuel-efficient vehicle and race the vehicle in a competitive setting.

Arkansas Tech senior mechanical engineering students will have two semesters to create their vehicle.  Students enrolled in the fall design class will research and develop a design for the vehicle, while students enrolled in the spring course will construct the vehicle.

Taylor Burns, a student currently enrolled in the course, says the assignment fosters real-world scenarios for Tech’s engineering students.

“The goal is to design the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible,” said Burns.  “In our class, each team is responsible for one area of the vehicle such as the transmission or the engine.  Each group must work together and communicate with one another to ensure the final design works properly.”

Dr. James Steuber, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, says the competition helps students get a better understanding of a real-world work environment.

“As an instructor, we ensure students learn the material covered in their textbooks, but it can be hard to find opportunities for real-world instruction because of the hands-on nature of this field,” said Steuber. “A competition like this helps the students learn the design process and practice the analytical skills they’ve been studying in the classroom.”

One of the biggest challenges the students will face in designing the vehicle is time limits.

“This class meets a few times a week for 50 minutes,” said student Kenny Stark. “Our class will have to take full advantage of that time in order to complete this project.”

Taylor Burns says he and his classmates share a passion for the project that will help them complete the design within the allotted time frame.

“We are all really excited about the opportunity to work on this project, so if it requires extra work to get it done, we are willing to put that time and effort into it,” said Burns.

Students enrolled in the course say the competition experience will also help them after graduation.

“Companies look for standouts in this field, and a project like this gives us a competitive edge,” said student Dacen Waters.  “Being able to include a tangible project that incorporates project management, teamwork and hands-on application on a resume will really help Arkansas Tech students be competitive in this industry.”

Arkansas Tech students will compete against more than 100 other teams at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition.

Visit the Arkansas Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering website.

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