They say it’s best to build bridges, and that’s exactly what Associate Teaching Professor of Engineering Marietta Scanlon and her class have done this semester.
In engineering design and analysis with CAD courses, Scanlon students comprised of seniors majoring in mechanical engineering and electro-mechanical engineering technology used CAD (computer-aided design) – specifically Autodesk Fusion 360 – to design a cantilever To design and simulate the loading of a bridge. Engineers typically use powerful software to simulate failure, but there’s no substitute for experiencing the real thing, and the Berks Launchbox allowed students to do just that.
Scanlon talked about the importance of the curriculum’s “applying to design” process and how students had the opportunity to “learn through simulation.” He emphasized the importance of exposing students to hands-on projects that allow them to go through the entire process of design, simulation, fabrication and testing.
The first step took place in the classroom, where students modeled a cantilever truss based on a specific set of criteria. Using Fusion 360’s powerful software, students were able to simulate failure based on applied loads and were able to predict where and how their bridge would fail when loaded.
Then, Scanlon and her class spent about three hours at the Berks Launchbox, located at the GoogleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading. Berks Launchbox helps early-stage entrepreneurs and startup companies access the tools and resources they need through accelerator programs, mentorship, co-working space for startups in the Greater Reading area, a maker space with tools for prototyping, and meetups need to be launched and developed through Focused on business development.
Working in teams of two and taking advantage of the makerspace, students fabricated and assembled their trusses, cutting the materials with laser-cutters housed in the Launchbox. Scanlon and her class worked with Patty Leshinsky, part-time Launchbox facilities specialist and mechanical engineer, as well as Michelle Henath, Launchbox facilities coordinator, and Erika Kunkel, Launchbox director.
Once the trusses were assembled, the students returned to the Berks campus and loaded their trusses to failure.
“Comparing their predictions of failure based on a simulation of an actual bridge failure based on loading the trusses created a very powerful experience for the students, which would not have been possible without the support of Launchbox,” Scanlon said.
When asked about the experience, Scanlon said, “It’s great to be able to expose students to the resources that space and Launchbox have to offer.” “Being able to work with the Berks Launchbox adds another dimension to the curriculum and extends the Berks campus to the city of Reading, providing even more opportunities for our engineering students.”