The Lee College of Engineering’s Senior Design programs provides students with experience doing real-world engineering projects, and senior Tracy Ross is getting a ton of experience this semester as he works as a team member on one project and is the industry mentor for two other projects.
Now close to finishing up his Mechanical Engineering Technology degree, Ross also works fulltime at General Steel Drum. The company makes 55 gallon drums for multitude of uses including hazardous materials and food products.
Ross has been at Steel Drum’s South Charlotte facility for 15 years, and was instrumental in getting it to support two Senior Design projects, for which he is the mentor. One project started in spring 2018 and one in fall 2018. The project Ross is working on as a student team member also started in spring 2018.
“It was interesting starting two projects simultaneously, one as a student and one as a mentor,” Ross said. “As a mentor you want to help them learn, so you try not to give them too many answers up front. So I learned from the student side want insight the sponsor can give you, and what type of questions to ask to get the information you need.”
The General Steel Drum project that began in January 2018 is “Drum Cooling Apparatus.” The team is charged with reducing the square footage of a current cool-down booth by 50 percent. The cool-down booth reduces the temperature of the steel drums after they have been painted from 300 to 100 degrees.
“The project is now in its second semester, and is going very well,” Ross said. “They have developed the concept and done the design, and are now building the prototype. As mentor I learned some things I could do better with the second team, like being clearer on specs such as space, power, air supply and materials. I did this with the second project, and I think it got a much stronger start.”
The second Steel Drum project, “Automation of Cover Removal Stations,” began in August 2018. Its charge is to design and build a system that will remove the covers from drums, turn them on their side and put them on a conveyor belt. This very physical work is currently done by hand on the 33 to 58 pounds drums.
“This team is made up of electrical, computer, mechanical and systems engineers,” Ross said, “They just finished their conceptual review, and will now be making some design updates and then building the system. So far it’s going well.”
The team Ross is on as a student is Design of SCADA System for Water Management for UNC Charlotte Facilities Management. SCADA is a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system capable of interfacing with water management models. The team’s system will monitor the fresh water coming in to campus to measure water quality, pressure and flow rates. The five-person team will determine what type of sensors to use, where they should be located and what type of interfaces to install.
“I’m responsible for the transfer of data from the sensors to the interface,” Ross said. “I’ve learned a lot on technology side about different software.”
Ross will be graduating in May 2019, but plans to continue the relationship between General Steel Drum and UNC Charlotte’s Senior Design program. “I’m the only engineer in the company supporting six facilities, so it’s nice to have this resource. We already have a couple other projects in mind for the future.”