STAPLES -- For Central Lakes College mechanical drafting and design students, one set of races has come and gone in the form of a drags-type showdown, while another can be described as more of a marathon challenge, a race for time and money.
On their final day of the spring term, the students put their self-designed, 9-inch-long model cars to the test. Each vehicle, powered by a single carbon dioxide cartridge, was timed across a straight track in the Staples campus assembly room. Results varied.
Some sleek and handsomely decorated cars barely measured up within parameters outlined in the assignment. Drafting and design is not known for "tolerance" because of precision that is essential to manufactured parts.
"Nope, just not quite acceptable," was the occasional announcement from instructor Dave Bissonette as he calculated each car's critical dimensions. Weight didn't matter, but size did.
Alterations and last-second modifications by the designer produced acceptable tolerances; others settled for permission to demonstrate without being "sanctioned."
"It's all pretty much just for fun on the last day, to let the students enjoy the fruits of their labor," said Bissonette. Still, a sense of design pride filled the air as family and friends applauded even the most unpredictable result.
By the time 14 designer models were launched across the floor, only a half dozen or so remained intact. A few disintegrated at launching. The reason: resin, a lightweight material used in the Rapid Prototype machine that produces whatever three-dimensional shape is designed. Next year a sturdier composite is anticipated.
Adam Landgren (left) of Aitkin, Steve Wehrs of Brainerd and Linda Arnold of Anchorage, Alaska, watched as Arnold's model car was launched in the Central Lakes College "model car showdown." Within strict tolerances, the mechanical drafting and design students built the vehicles, each car with a slot for one carbon dioxide cartridge that jettisoned the car when its tip was punctured.
Some cars took slightly more than one second to rocket 25 feet or so to the finish line, but if they missed the foam catch pad well, the news was not good. A couple rigs demolished in head-on encounters with the edge of the receptacle.
One of the nicer crafts was the DeLorean look-alike by Steve Wehrs of Brainerd. Same for Albert Lea native Donovan Turvold's tribute to Yoda in a "Star Wars" sampler. And one of the few survivors of the day was a fortunate product built by Adam Landgren of Aitkin.
Meanwhile, back in the second-year drafting lab at CLC, missing only a few vital parts before it can officially be driven, sits a full-size go-cart designed by a team of five CLC students. It will make its maiden maneuvers once the program has obtained an engine and four wheels.
TEAM Industries of Bagley provided $500 to get the project off the ground. The team of students used SolidWorks software to design the cart, which uses one and one-quarter-inch steel tubing for the frame and an aluminum steering "wheel" produced in the college machining lab.
Instructor Dave Bissonette measured each car for quality assurance.
Students who will complete the project in the fall are Chris Kelley and Travis Olson, both of Aitkin, Justin Beach of Sebeka, Ken Charpentier of Pine River, and Donovan Turvold of Albert Lea.
"They designed everything, including brake pedals, tires, the roll cage," said Bissonette. "It's an extra-credit, beyond everything else we do, thing." He said the cart would be a helpful student recruiting display, once it is powder-coated, painted and operational under supervision, powered by the preferred choice of transport: a six-horsepower Tecumseh engine.
The college drafting and design program has partnered with several industry friends that welcome a mutually beneficial relationship. Bissonette and program colleague Cory Robinson are eager to build upon this concept in training tomorrow's professional designers.
Bissonette and Robinson want to give students challenges and realistic projects that produce results they can see. They conclude that using the tools and the experience from what works and what doesn't is the way to make learning stick.
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