PRW Site Search Leads to New Tool for Students

Jun 8, 2010

A request to mount a General Motors engine on one of PRW Industries’ engine test stands started a quest for Jim Contes, a retired GM engineer and automotive lecturer in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus since 2009.

Before retiring from GM, Contes was able to have several engines donated to the university for teaching purposes. While teaching his power-train class, he wanted to mount one of the engines on a test stand as a student project, according to a press release.

“A colleague in the department found an engine test stand on PRW’s website, and asked if it was possible to mount a GM engine on it,” said Contes. “Of course I accepted the challenge, even though my class was halfway into the semester.

“I split my students up into teams of two to tackle the project,” he continued. “The teams took a 6.0-liter Hummer II engine and integrated all the systems needed to run the engine on the PRW engine test stand. I then divided the project into six parts, as we would do in the automotive workplace, to focus on basic mechanical; the cooling, fuel, exhaust and air intake systems; and electrical.”

The automotive concentration of ASU’s mechanical engineering technology degree, which started in the fall of 2006 with just 12 students, has proven to be very popular. Today, 85 students from across the nation are enrolled in the automotive concentration.

“The structure of the automotive concentration, with its applied engineering approach to vehicles and their systems, has attracted students with a variety of interests,” said Scott Danielson, chair of the Engineering Technology Department. “We had representatives from industry help us design the program so it reflects the nature of engineering jobs within the industry, especially a vehicle testing environment.

“As a polytechnic institution, our programs focus on providing students with the opportunity to both learn the theory and to apply it on meaningful projects,” he added. “So, we have the students do engineering design and then actually build the solution. Doing design on paper is easy; making something work is hard-but worth the effort!”

Contes said his students demonstrated the polytechnic philosophy with this project and they learned much more along the way.

“The teams communicated, integrated their systems and worked hard in the lab to get the engine test stand fitted with the engine just in time to push the start button at the end of the semester. You can’t imagine the excitement reflected on the faces of the students to see this engine come alive again. It was a very rewarding and meaningful project and is being used as a teaching tool constantly. We are now purchasing an engine dynamometer to run this and other engines for research projects.”