WNY P-TECH in Dunkirk recently concluded its Summer Bridge program. The week-long event, which gives new and returning students a chance to get acquainted ahead of the new school year, culminated with an industry challenge.
Matthew McCullough, Continuous Improvement Specialist, and John Noel, Training Specialist, from Wells Enterprises in Dunkirk, joined P-TECH students on a Zoom call to present the challenge.
“On our straight-line machine, the plates that transport the ice cream through the freezing tunnel lift off the conveyor chain pins,” Christmas explained.
McCullough explained that the conveyor system spans 180 feet of liner with individual plates tied together.
“The task is to design a system that keeps the plates in line and prevents them from slipping off the track as they turn around the corner leading to the freezing tunnel,” McCullough said. “The solution should be stainless steel or food-grade plastic, resistant to water absorption and chemicals, and should be sanitizable.”
Students had one hour to break into small groups to discuss and design a solution that they would present to Noel and McCullough.
The ideas developed by the students varied in scope and each solved the problem in its own way.
“The problems our industry partners present to our students are the same challenges they face every day,” said William Smock, director of WNY P-TECH. “Holding our Industry Challenge during Summer Bridge gives our former students a chance to brush up on their skills, and for our new students, it gives them a taste of things to come. We work to think outside the box at P-TECH, and these challenges are a perfect example.
As the students worked to solve the problem, so did McCullough, who reported that several of the student’s ideas were ideas he had come up with. The students’ ideas included options such as creating a strip of Delrin above the pin to prevent it from popping out, sensors to tell the machine when a plate had come loose, and modifications to the pins they themselves.
“I fixed this while you were working on it, and we’ve implemented a lot of what you just said,” he said. “We opted for a holding L-bracket with a Delrin top strip, so we didn’t have any wear. We also installed a sensor so that anything that goes too high in the tunnel stops the machine, and you had it too We also replaced the pin, removed a ring and put a cap on the top… It’s great to see you working on these exercises.