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Leading by design

A group of students from Bishop Shanahan High School got an education in cutting-edge engineering design techniques when they got a chance to use Widener University School of Engineering’s 3D printer to build and test model airplanes of their own making.

The students, from the school in Downingtown, Pa., completed the ENGR 113: Computer-Aided Engineering Design class in the School of Engineering. The 16 students, in groups of four, used 3D-CAD to design airplanes, which were printed with the ProJet 1000 3D Systems Printer in the School of Engineering. The students then tested their designs in the wind tunnel in the fluids lab in Kirkbride Hall.

School of Engineering Assistant Dean Rudy Treichel said the students, who earn college credit for completing the course, received a fundamental education in how professional engineers communicate.

“Engineering graphics is the form of communication for engineers,” Treichel said, whether communicating with customers, clients, or manufacturing operations. “They learn how to draft and draw, both in a conceptual sketch, freehand sketch, and then in a CAD drawing scenario,” said Treichel, who is director of Widener’s engineering graduate programs.

The students glued their designs together and tested them out in the wind tunnel, measuring for lift and drag -- some working better than others. The competition determined the most successful design and best calculations.

“They were able to see that different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses of wings had a huge difference on how much lift they would get, and I think they were able to see which designs worked a lot better,” said Jacob Fenstermaker, engineering technician in Widener’s mechanical engineering program.

The 3D printer is used at Widener in engineering research, and by Widener students in the different engineering disciplines to produce their own designs. In particular, it is an important tool in use for designs in biomedical engineering.

“The biggest advantage to having the 3D printer would have to be how quickly you can go from digital design to an actual working prototype,” Fenstermaker said.