WORCESTER, Mass. – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) senior David Willens, of Holden, Mass., was awarded the prestigious first-place student manufacturing design competition award at the 2008 American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Conference on Manufacturing Science and Engineering held at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Willens, a 2005 graduate of Wachusett Regional High school, is studying at WPI to obtain two bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering. At the conference last fall, he represented WPI and Kinefac Corp., a Worcester-based machine tool building company. The competition encouraged college students who were working with innovative designs in various sectors of the manufacturing industry to showcase their efforts and involvement. Seven teams from engineering colleges across the country and the United Kingdom were pre-selected to present their projects at the conference. Willens entered his project presentation, Three Cylindrical Die Forced Thru-Feed Spline Rolling Adaptation, and came away with the first-place award while competing against such institutions as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northwestern University, Columbia University, University of New Hampshire, Iowa State, and University of Cambridge, UK.
"I am proud of the award David Willens has received from the ASME," said Yiming (Kevin) Rong, WPI's John W. Higgins professor of mechanical engineering, and associate director of the university’s Manufacturing and Materials Engineering Program. Rong is Willens' academic and project advisor. "His continuous work on real world problem solving, along with the knowledge gained at WPI, makes for another successful story of WPI’s innovative engineering education curriculum. David’s achievement also shows that student work can be valuable and that it contributes and makes an impact on industry and society."
Willens' project originated at Kinefac from a testing and development concept to push the limits of an existing form-rolling process known as forced thru-feed rolling, which uses three-cylindrical rolling dies to deform a metal blank part into an involute spline form without cutting any material away. Kinefac President and CEO Howard Greis asked Willens to work on the project to design, build, and adapt a system to roll form large spline shafts on an existing piece of equipment. This was a unique testing and development project spurred by a customer inquiry that had potential to open doors further into the shaft manufacturing industry for Kinefac, as well as an opportunity for the student to put what he learned about design- and metal-forming into action.
According to Willens, WPI and Kinefac have given him an opportunity to see how the university's motto of "theory and practice" comes together in the real world. "I'm in a position that few ever get to experience in the early years of their career. The practical experience I’ve gained at Kinefac has come in handy many times in school, whether it is for leading a project group or just designing something. WPI has helped me offer new perspectives and solutions to some of the engineering projects I have encountered at Kinefac."
Willens has been interested in engineering since he was a child. The once-hobby started after he learned to weld and run metal-working machinery when he was 12. Soon, he also took an interest in antique vehicles, having restored a 1930 Ford Model A. In addition to his studies, Willens serves as president of WPI's American Society of Mechanical Engineers chapter. He is also a member of E.P.I.C.S (Engineering Projects in Community Service) and the WPI Concert Band, and is secretary of the Minuteman Model A Ford Club of Sudbury, Mass.
"The ASME award would not have been possible without the willingness of the people at Kinefac to teach and provide unique opportunities, and the valuable education I am receiving from Worcester Polytechnic Institute," said Willens, who plans to continue this fall at WPI through the university's combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program. "I have professors, advisors, and Kinefac personnel to thank for my success. I hope to also maintain my relationship with Kinefac and see what the future brings."