Lockheed Martin challenges engineering design students to drive innovation

March 17, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thought of by many as the true beginning of a third industrial revolution, additive manufacturing is changing industries and allowing manufacturers to explore new avenues of engineering and production.

Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing refers to the various processes used to manufacture a 3D object, by forming layer upon layer to create a final product.

Unlike conventional “subtractive” manufacturing, 3D printing only adds material exactly where the manufacturer would like. This allows for the creation of drastically lighter structures — a critical component in the aerospace, defense and energy industries, as weight plays a significant role in design.

Lockheed Martin has tasked current students in EDSGN 100: Introduction to Engineering Design with leveraging additive manufacturing to solve new problems or redesign existing solutions for its unique areas of expertise — industries that encompass air, land, sea and space.

Student design teams will choose one of five additive manufacturing problems currently faced by Lockheed Martin engineers — redesign a traditionally manufactured air-flow through a heat exchanger; develop a shock absorber to transfer and distribute shock loads; design a custom wire connector to solve off-the-shelf product use challenges; redesign a USB hub mounting bracket; or evaluate various Lockheed Martin products and a find a component that represents one of these challenges.

Paul Mittan, specialty hardware engineering manager at Lockheed Martin, said this early interaction with students through sponsorship of EDSGN projects is crucial for the engineering industry.

“Engaging students from all engineering disciplines and teaching them how these techniques could be applied to solve various problems helps us as a company when we look to recruit talent, and also helps our industry as these students drive innovation,” Mittan, a Penn State electrical engineering alumnus, said.

Sven Bilén, head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) and professor of engineering design, electrical engineering and aerospace engineering, said one of the most important lessons learned during EDSGN 100 projects is understanding the different elements of the design and innovation process.

“They are learning that design is a messy process. The answers are not in the back of the book,” he said.

Involvement with these lessons allows industry professionals to demonstrate how the problem-solving skills students are learning in class can be applied to solve real challenges. Industry interest in engineering education is vital for the continued growth of the profession.

“Across the globe, engineers are growing in demand, and technology is evolving faster than ever before,” Mittan said. “Inspiring students to pursue careers in engineering and encouraging them along the way when the ‘going gets tough,’ will be imperative as we look to build the workforce of the future.”

Throughout the semester, students are provided with access to Lockheed Martin mentors — technical points of contact that are able to answer questions, provide professional insight and offer additional design information and materials. The mentors also expose students to company and industry backgrounds, expectations and procedures — assisting in the creation of world-class engineers.

“They [mentors] are helping to develop the pipeline of engineers and helping to provide the direction that we should be training our engineering students in,” Bilén said.

At the end of the semester, teams must submit a technical report containing the rationale for the selection of the problem, a description of alternative designs and their evaluation, design models, 3D printed test samples, assessments of the samples against the requirements, and the advantages of the team’s solution over the existing design.

Mittan said it is important to introduce students to an industry-like experience early in their education, in addition to teaching them how to problem solve, work as a team, and have fun with engineering.

“We want them to remember that there are multiple ways to solve a problem and what’s important is proving their solution works,” Mittan said. “These projects are meant to inspire students about careers in engineering and to encourage them to push through the challenging math, sciences and other courses in order to one day continue solving our world’s most challenging problems.”

Final projects will be on display at the College of Engineering Design Showcase April 28 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The company is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and employs approximately 126,000 people worldwide.

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Last Updated March 24, 2016