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Techmobile helps students learn about engineering

Students around the state have been getting a first-hand view of several technologies used in modern engineering thanks to the "Techmobile" from the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC) in New Mexico State University's College of Engineering.



NMSU mechanical engineering technology student Taylor Smith demonstrates a robotic arm for a group of fourth and fifth graders at Dona Ana Elementary School. The NMSU College of Engineering's Techmobile made the demonstration possible. (NMSU photo by Darr

hmobile was developed by M-TEC director Anthony Hyde, a group of his students and M-TEC staff. It is an 8-by-24-foot trailer filled with working exhibits illustrating computerization, robotics, plastic injection molding and other types of engineering and manufacturing technology, said Taylor Smith, a sophomore in mechanical engineering technology. Smith is one of the New Mexico State students who helped design the trailer and who make presentations when it visits schools.


The first exhibit students see when they enter the trailer is a large computer screen that runs a video showing the designing of a computerized drafting table. At the next exhibit, they see the table in operation.

The table is connected to a computer and has arms that hold different tools. It can draw or etch designs on paper and other materials at the same time as an operator drafts them on a computer, said Dale Cillessen, also a sophomore in mechanical engineering technology.

"We wanted students to see all the different steps a project goes through in engineering, how it starts as an idea, then is drawn and tested on a computer, then is built," Cillessen said.

In the next exhibit, a robotic arm picks up blocks and stacks them on a holder, then picks up the stack and puts it on a conveyer belt.

"While they watch, I tell them how robots are used to make medical equipment in sterile environments, in nuclear plants to cut down on human exposure or to weld vehicle parts on an assembly line," said Smith.

The exhibits also include a plastic injection molding machine that turns out a key ring ornament while the students watch and an ultra-light off-road vehicle being developed and built by Hyde and his students.

The techmobile began life as a Wells Cargo fifth-wheel trailer, then was outfitted with wiring and carpeting by the fabrications department of New Mexico State's Physical Science Laboratory. Most of its exhibits were built by Amatrol Inc. of Jeffersonville, Ind., Hyde said.

It is wheelchair accessible and, drawn by a truck, has visited schools and science fairs in Albuquerque, Capitan, Dona Ana and Las Cruces. Since it began operation in fall 2001, it has hosted approximately 700 students, Smith said.

Ester Jaramillo, a technology teacher at Mayfield High School, said students in the school's technology lab, automotive and wood shops enjoyed the techmobile when it visited Mayfield High last November.

"They enjoyed actually getting an up-close look at the many different fields in engineering. They also enjoyed seeing that off-road vehicle," she said.

Other New Mexico State students who helped design or build parts of the trailer are James Eaton, a sophomore civil engineering technology major; Wes Eaton, a New Mexico State mechanical engineering technology graduate and an engineering technologist at the university; Ryan Herbon, a graduate student in industrial engineering; and Ryan Pelking, a sophomore in mechanical engineering technology, Hyde said.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/tech_mobile.jpg.
CUTLINE: NMSU mechanical engineering technology student Taylor Smith demonstrates a robotic arm for a group of fourth and fifth graders at Dona Ana Elementary School. The NMSU College of Engineering's Techmobile made the demonstration possible. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Jack King
May 21, 2002