How did a Smith engineering team manage to design an improved breathing device for use during the coronavirus pandemic in under a month? True teamwork, say the members of SmithVent, whose design has moved on to a final round of a global competition.
The Grécourt Gate welcomes your submissions. To discuss a story idea of interest to the Smith community, contact Barbara Solow at 413-585-2171 or send email to email@example.com.
The Smith eDigest is sent to all campus email accounts on Tuesday and Thursday each week during the academic year and on Tuesdays during the summer. Items for eDigest are limited to official Smith business and must be submitted by 5 p.m. on the day prior to the next edition’s distribution.
Real-World Engineering: Smith’s Design Clinic
The device—built by the team of Sakheim-Devine and fellow seniors Ha Phuong Le, Mandira Marambe and Nina Shute—is designed to make small cuts in rods for twisted wire brushes used for taking gynecological cell samples. Such scoring indicates where the rods should be snapped in two after each sampling.
Each team member led a specific aspect of the project design: Le handled actuators, Sakheim-Devine the machining, Shute the blade durability testing and Marambe oversaw control.
“We needed each other to get this device working,” Sakheim-Devine said.
Sanderson MacLeod plans to incorporate the students’ work in setting up an in-house rod scoring process—a move that is expected to result in financial savings for the company.
The wire-brush team was one of nine presenting at the April 26 Design Clinic Celebration on campus. Projects completed by students in the two-semester course included, among other things, designs for a micromobility vehicle with Honda, culvert evaluation with the Northampton Department of Public Works, and manufacturing improvements with Collins Aerospace.
Susannah Howe—a senior lecturer in engineering who has led Smith’s Design Clinic since its inception 16 years ago—said the program offers students extended experience with “real-world engineering.”
“Our students are working with engineers in industry, practicing what it’s like to do engineering,” Howe said. “The heart of the program is that they have sponsor involvement and interest in their projects.”
Brian Chechile, director of manufacturing excellence for Sanderson MacLeod, praised the Smith team for their “ability to adapt, ask engaging questions—and their solution development.”
“The best thing about this project was watching the students grow,” Chechile added. “We will now take their design and modify and implement it on our production equipment.”
Smith team member Shute said the eight-month design process involved numerous mechanical functions, such as how to move individual rods into place for scoring.
“Our ‘Aha!’ moment came in the middle of spring semester,” said Shute, who will work as a quality engineer at Collins Aerospace after graduation. That’s when the students discovered that a component similar to a jeweler’s lathe could grip and rotate the plastic rods for scoring.
Marambe, who led the team’s efforts to incorporate automation into the design work, said it was rewarding to be able to present “not just a prototype” but an actual working device to the company.
For Le, a key takeaway was the importance of communication in engineering design work.
“Before, I didn’t have the experience of working directly with people from a company,” she said. “For this project I learned how to communicate with them. There was a lot of growth!”