Plastics Professor Challenges Students to Design Race Car!

Plastics Professor Jon Meckley unites middle schoolers and college students to bring a plastic product design to market—from part design and verification, to tool design, tool build, and product manufacturing.


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Jon Meckley, Chair of the Plastics Department, at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, is not only dedicated to educating his college students on the basics of CNC machining, he is also engaging middle school students—namely sixth graders—to draw the car design that his college students will take from concept to completed part! It is Meckley’s hope to introduce them to the world of manufacturing—especially engineering—so that when they are older they consider a manufacturing career. “The challenge is that we don’t really want it to look like a car,” he notes. “This year our theme was to draw a car that you would see at a circus or county fair. We had an ice cream cone car, hamburger car, corn dog car, to name a few. It’s really neat.”


Meckley’s students meet the sixth graders at the beginning of the fall semester. “My students talk to them about how the process will work over the semester: the design, machining, assembly, etc. “Over the course of the semester, they will email the sixth graders weekly updates. In November the kids get to tour the facility and see one of the inserts being machined. They usually see car bodies chunking out of the injection molding machine. At that point machining takes place for all of the inserts through the end of October all the way through November. In December my students will go to the grade school with a bunch of car bodies and they will allow the kids to paint them. Then we have the big race on the Tuesday of finals week.”


Read the full story here.