Magazine article ASEE Prism

No Business like Snow Business

Magazine article ASEE Prism

No Business like Snow Business

Article excerpt

BARRELING DOWN A PENNSYLVANIA MOUNTAIN WITH computers strapped to their backs is not how most engineering students imagine senior design projects. But for those at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., who spent last winter break doing just that, it was a chance to learn about snowboard design while helping a local business get on its feet.

The eight junior and senior mechanical and electrical engineering students spent a few days at Seven Springs ski resort, some 200 miles from the school, testing specially outfitted snowboards as part of an innovative senior project. The year-long program, developed by associate mechanical engineering professor Keith Buffinton and assistant mechanical engineering professor Steven Shooter, called for students to gather data on snowboard design, then build a robot and create a computer program. In the end, the student-developed technology will be used to help fledgling snowboard manufacturer Walbridge Design and Manufacturing build better boards.

"The project came about after Walbridge Design asked for help in developing new ways to test snowboards," says Shooter, who is approached by several companies each year seeking engineering design expertise. Shooter says he helped start the program because of the student interest he knew it would generate. He also wanted to demonstrate the importance of involving real customers in student design, something that can't be done with "canned" projects. "Students gain a much richer experience from the interactions with the clients and dealing with the variety of issues that arise," says Shooter. …

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