September 2, 2011

While some students were busy taking notes in class last semester, students in Industrial Engineering 4599 were working on changing the way airplane maintenance is performed.

And they succeeded.

University alumni Micah Shaw, Eric Fontenot and Aaron Yglesias created the Track Vac 2.0, a multi-faceted vacuum, in their prototype design created in the prerequisite course in fall 2010.

The vacuum was created for Aeroframe, a company that specializes in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of commercial and military aircraft in Lake Charles.

"Eric was in the first class, which helped us because he already had some knowledge about the vacuum and whatAeroframe wanted," Shaw said.

Aeroframe General Manager Mark Redmond said the Track Vac 2.0 will significantly reduce the manpower needed to clean seat tracks on cargo planes.

"Usually it takes 10 to 12 guys to clean the plane," Redmond said. "With the vacuum, cleaning the seat tracks will only require a few hours and a single person to check on the vacuum every once in a while."

But the project is not fully complete, said Gerald Knapp, faculty adviser for the project.

"Aeroframe said that they wanted some minor changes to the vacuum before the product can be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval," Knapp said.

These changes will be made during the spring semester in a joint project between the industrial engineering and mechanical engineering programs.

The Track Vac 2.0 was funded entirely by Aeroframe. Redmond said Aeroframe will pay the University for the design of the vacuum but will use it strictly in-house, meaning the vacuum will not be sold on the open market to other companies.

The Track Vac 2.0 consists of a 1-inch wide by 1/8-inch thick aluminum frame, brushes to loosen debris that builds up with heavy usage, two vacuum ports, a fluid dispersion tool to clean the tracks and several electronic components.

Shaw said partnerships like the one with Aeroframe are beneficial for the companies as well as students.

"The companies get a quality product, the students can get great experience, and if you do a good job on the project, you might get a job out of it," Shaw said.

Connecting students with companies like Aeroframe is part of the University's goal to develop students' job skills while they're in school, Knapp said.

"Projects like this give students good experience for the real world and give them the chance to show their abilities to corporations which could potentially offer them a job from a project like this," he said.

Success with these projects can breed similar opportunities.


This article was written by Joshua Bergeron and originally published in The Daily Reveille on September 2, 2011. Click here to view the original article.

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