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 carry the ice cream through the freezing tunnel lift off the conveyor chain pins,” Noel explained.
McCullough explained the conveyor system stretches 180 liner feet with individual plates fastened together.
“The task is to design a system that keeps the plates in line and from popping off the track when they round the corner leading into the freezing tunnel,” McCullough said. “The solution must be made of stainless steel or food-grade plastic, resistant to water absorption and chemicals, and must be able to be sanitized.”
Students had one hour to break out into small groups to discuss and design a solution they would present to Noel and McCullough.
The ideas developed by students varied in scope, and each solved the problem in their own way.
“The problems our industry partners present to our students are the same challenges they face daily,” said William Smock, WNY P-TECH principal. “Holding our Industry Challenge during Summer Bridge gives our returning students a chance to freshen up their skills, and for our new students, it gives them a taste of things to come. We work on thinking outside the box at P-TECH, and these challenges are a perfect example of this.”
While students were working on solving the problem, so too was McCullough, who reported that several of the student’s ideas were ideas he had come up with. Student ideas included options such as creating a Delrin strip atop the pin to keep it from popping up, sensors to tell the machine when a plate had come loose, and modifications to the pins themselves.
“I solved this problem as you guys were working on it, and we put a lot of what you just said in place,” he said. “We went with a hold-down L-bracket with a Delrin strip up top, so we didn’t have wear. We also put a sensor in so that anything too high entering the tunnel would stop the machine, and you guys had that as well. We also replaced the pin, removed a bushing, and put a cap on top … It’s great to see you guys working on these exercises.”