Real-World Industry Problems Keep Students Busy at WPI This Summer

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - This summer, students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are getting a shot at solving real-world problems for some major manufacturing companies. Far from an academic exercise, this program revolves around learning by doing real research projects in manufacturing engineering, according to program director Mustapha S. Fofana and co-director Joseph J. Rencis, WPI professors of mechanical engineering."All of these are specific projects being at the request of a company," said Fofana. "There is constant interaction between the student and the company, and that is what makes this experience so important to the participants."

Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a grant of $44,956, WPI's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) for Industrial Projects in Manufacturing Engineering is a ten-week summer program. REU offers outstanding undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue manufacturing engineering industrial projects while receiving a stipend, travel allowance and living space. To continue the program, WPI has secured an NSF grant of $46,577 and $48,310 for the next two years.

"The WPI program is different from others that focus on academic rather than real-life problems important to industry," said Rencis. This summer, three projects have been undertaken:

  • Wendy Orton of North Grafton, Mass., a senior at Massachusetts Bay Community College, John Stadtman of Waltham, Mass., a senior at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and Dariusz Szwarc of Webster, Mass., a junior at WPI, are working on a project titled, "Becoming Lean at Saeilo Manufacturing Industries (SMI). The project focuses on developing a lean manufacturing system by following the manufacturing process from raw material to finished product. Eight key concepts will be studied, including overproduction, inventory, transportation, operator waiting, defects, motion, setup time and information flow. Finally, students will submit a proposal aimed at improving each of these concepts, providing SMI with a way to implement a lean manufacturing system.

  • Myriam M. Laureano Lopez of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, a senior at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, David Martin of Agawam, Mass., a senior at WPI, and John Dylewicz of Charlton, Mass., a junior at WPI, are researching "Fixture Design Improvement for Engine Bland Disk" for Pratt & Whitney Co. The goal is to improve the design of a hydraulic nut in a fixture to reduce the net weight while maintaining strength and efficiency. The students will analyze the current design, looking for areas of improvement. Ultimately, a prototype design of the hydraulic nut and a fixture design proposal will be presented to the company.

  • Brandon Campbell of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., a senior at Michigan State University, Nathan Dektor of West Lafayette, Ind., a junior at Purdue University, and Seth McNear of Leeds, Maine, a junior at WPI, are working on "Pouring Reel Coil Cooling Analysis" for Morgan Construction Co. The project will analyze the cooling over time of carbon-steel coils in factory conditions. The students will determine the time required for the coils to reach a temperature at which they may be inspected and compressed. Factors to be considered include how the coils are transported through the factory, the type of steel being used and the dimensions of the coils. The goal is to develop a numerical model that will aid in future production design.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with research projects on campus and around the world.