Student Profiles & Projects
Every day at MSU, Industrial Engineering students learn skills that will enable them to change the world tomorrow,
Dr. Laura Stanley, Assistant Professor Named MVP-Most Valuable Professor at Montana State University Homecoming Football Game 2011
Listen to Dr. Stanley's 60-second Radio Spot regarding the Industrial Engineering Program at MSU!
MSU students, adults with disabilities work together to find ways to work independently
Todd, 57, loves strategy games like checkers, Connect Four and Italian lawn bowling. The faster he can fly down a mountain on his sit-down skis the better.
Todd also loves working independently, but it's a challenge for the Reach client who is missing his right arm and sometimes has tremors in his left. When Todd bags metal washers at the Bozeman workshop for people with disabilities, he often relies on an aide to help him. Mardie McGregor usually hands the washers to Todd, then opens a small plastic bag and holds it while he drop the washers into it.
Reaching a goal
To help Todd reach his goal of working without assistance, three Montana State University students met him earlier this fall as part of IME 413, a senior-level course for industrial engineering majors. The students watched Todd work, then came up with ways to help him work by himself. They developed one of those ideas into a device they thought Todd could use and Reach could afford to duplicate. They showed it to Todd in December.
“What do you think, Todd? Will this work for you?” asked Nick Kintzler from Bozeman.
Kintzler, Chris Hergett from Billings, and Cory Wolosyn of Kansas City, Kan., turned an ink pen into a magnetic pen by removing the ink cartridge and replacing the tip with a magnet they had filed to fit. They also built a wooden stand that used a dowel and clamp to hold a funnel in place.
The students designed their device so Todd could place and open a small plastic bag below the funnel. Then he would pick up the pen. With one click, he'd push out the magnet so it would pick up washers laying on the table in front of him. With another click, he'd pull the magnet back inside the pen so the washers would fall into the funnel. The funnel would guide the washers into the plastic bag. He'd remove the bag and set it aside for someone else to seal shut.
A week later, the students presented their project to their classmates and asked Todd to demonstrate their product. Sitting at a table in the back of an MSU classroom, Todd placed a bag beneath the funnel. Once again, he completed the process flawlessly. The students applauded.
Kintzler, Wolosyn and Hergett were among 11 students who took Stanley's “Ergonomics and Human Factors Engineering I” course this fall. For the second year in a row, the class incorporated service learning by working with Reach, a Gallatin Valley organization devoted to empowering adults with disabilities. One way Reach fosters independence and helps its clients gain more control over their lives is by offering them a variety of jobs that fit their abilities. Some of the clients work in businesses around Bozeman. Many of the clients — currently ranging in age from 21 to 78 — work at the Reach workshop north of Bozeman, filling contracts with local manufacturers. Todd, for one, was bagging washers for Dynojet. In last year's project with MSU students, he built truss rods for Gibson Guitar.
MSU students who took Stanley's class this year were divided into four groups at the beginning of the fall semester. Each group was then matched with a Reach client.
Unlike clients the students might have for other engineering projects, all of these clients are developmentally delayed. All four have physical disabilities involving a hand or arm.
Stanley said engineers can go through their entire career without designing products for people with disabilities. IME 413 reminds students that “Not everybody looks like you or acts like you.” She added that the class teaches students how to fit their designs to the person.
“This isn't just a report. This is a chance for you to change somebody's life,” Stanley told them. “You actually get to help somebody.”
Many of the MSU students said they hadn't worked with people with disabilities before taking IME 413. Some had, including Britni Alsberg who taught swimming to the disabled in Glasgow. Whatever their level of experience, the students said the course was both valuable and challenging.
Alsberg, Severin and Eggensperger made up the team that worked with David, a sociable client whose artwork is featured on the 2010 Christmas card from Reach. After starting out with one design to help David bag parts more efficiently, the students switched to a simpler design they called the “97-cent solution.” It consisted of a funnel they had bought for 97 cents. By turning it upside down, David could pull a plastic bag over the tip. He could then turn it right-side up and easily drop two small parts into the bag.
Stanley published a paper about the service learning project and presented it in October at the ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference in Washington, D.C.
“Engineering is a field that provides an ideal proving ground for integrating service-learning into the curriculum because of the emphasis on experiential education, problem solving skills and working in teams,” she wrote with co-authors Lenore Page and Carolyn Plumb. Page was the teaching assistant for the course. Plumb is director of educational innovation and strategic projects in MSU's College of Engineering.
Reach employees who worked with MSU both years praised the students for their participation, attitudes and inventions. Contract Development Supervisor Kathy Pittinger, who obtains contracts with local businesses and breaks down their jobs into doable tasks, said she values the students' unique perspectives on how to help the clients carry out their jobs. In some cases, the clients want to work more efficiently so they can earn more money by working faster. In other cases, the big goal is working independently.
Todd's aide said, “It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful those students are. They always seem like they really want to be here and really want to help.”
Tallon said the MSU students came up with several ideas that Reach can use.
“We've gotten a benefit out of it, and I think the students benefit, too,” he said of the collaboration. “It's been a real nice connection.”
Students use new traffic simulator to help prevent car-bike crashes
Montana State University engineering students Penny Atkins and Gordon Nelson will get a chance later this month to do something that nobody else at MSU will ever get to do: conduct the first research project in MSU's new large-scale traffic simulator.
Atkins, 21, was referring to the new $915,000 traffic simulatorinstalled at MSU's Western Transportation Institute in November. The simulator uses a real vehicle body on a motion platform, complex computer hardware and 240-degrees of projector screens to replicate the experience of behind behind the wheel.
Atkins and Nelson, also 21, are using that simulator to research a warning system that would use radio signals and GPS to warn drivers about the presence of bicyclists on the roadway.
Atkins and Nelson's research is funded by the Western Transportation Institute's Undergraduate Research Experience program. URE students earn a stipend for two semesters while working one-on-one with a professional researcher on a transportation-related project.
WTI says the program helps students develop skills in data collection, analysis, interpretation and in communicating their research to a broad audience. Students in the program also get the chance to travel to professional conferences and submit papers to scientific journals.
Atkins, a senior in industrial engineering major, said her half of the project deals with finding the best type of warning to give to drivers -- sounds, lights, vibration or other types of interfaces -- and the best timing for that warning.
For Atkins, who used to think research consisted only of time spent in a library reading scientific papers, the URE project has been an eye-opener. Now she says her college experience would have felt much less full without the chance to conduct research on her own.
"That's really the point of this research experience, to learn what research is all about," she said. "Now I think research is really cool. I had no idea what went into all of it."
Atkins' faculty mentor, Laura Stanley, said that watching the project grow from being her idea to being Atkins' research has been one of the most enjoyable experiences she's had as a college professor.
"They have the ability to take an idea and create something new with it," said Stanley, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering. "The URE project allows students to think beyond textbooks and schooling."
Another benefit of the URE project is the head start it gives students in the job hunt after graduation.
MSU's Hansen plans to use Rhodes Scholarship to study water policy in the world's neediest areas
Katy Hansen, whose long-held desire to serve gained focus when she became involved with the efforts of Montana State University's chapter of Engineers Without Borders, will have the opportunity to impact water policy on a grander scale as a result of her selection as a recipient of a 2011 Rhodes Scholarship, arguably the most prestigious scholarship in the world.
Hansen was one of just 32 U.S. recipients of the Rhodes, given by the Rhodes Trust for advanced study at Oxford University, one of the world's most distinguished universities.
Hansen graduated from MSU in May with a bachelor's degree in industrial and management engineering and a minor in economics. She is currently an MSU graduate student on a Boren Fellowship working on water resource management in the Negev Desert near the Red Sea.
photos by Kelly Gorham, Montana State University
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