Sounds of robotic arms and conveyor belts whizzing and whirling filled the room as four Kennesaw State University mechatronics engineering students recently worked with an industry partner on designing a better beverage bottling process.
Macey Hurst, a KSU senior from Woodstock, and three other students in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology have been working on a project that includes integrating a robot with a SuperTrak, an innovative conveyor belt that uses magnets, at B&R Industrial Automation, an international automation and process control technology company with a facility in Roswell. The project simulates a bottle-filling application where empty bottles are loaded onto a track and full bottles are loaded off the track and placed into a specific area.
“Most of the semester, we’ve been working on simulating a robot virtually,” said KSU senior Eric Oldfield. “Now we have the chance to work with real hardware. It’s been great to get career-ready experience in an industry setting.”
“The students needed to create a senior design project, and we wanted to find a way to give them experience with some new technology,” said Connor Trostel, solutions architect at B&R, who is a graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University, now KSU. “We’ve given the students access to our SuperTrak linear transport system, and they are programming the shuttles to move around to individual locations.”
The students, who are required to complete a senior design project before graduating, spent the first half of the fall semester designing a virtual version of the robot and were able to use the physical prototype at B&R’s Roswell facility.
The partnership with B&R Industrial Automation has given the Kennesaw State seniors career-ready experience with innovative technology, as well as networking opportunities and job offers.
“It’s great to have a relationship with Kennesaw State University,” Trostel said. “It has given us high-quality candidates for several positions.”
Oldfield, who interned with the company over the summer, received a job offer from B&R and will start with the company full time in January.
“I’ve learned a lot from Connor and others here at B&R, especially about how to work with other engineers and set reasonable goals,” Oldfield said. “I’m excited to come on board full time at B&R in a few weeks.”
B&R worked with a senior design project last summer, but because of the pandemic, students were not able to visit the facility. Trostel was excited to implement the in-person aspect this fall.
“The academic setting is a great place to learn mechatronics concepts,” he said. “The industry setting shows how those topics you learn in class can be applied to the real world.”
Assistant professor in the department of robotics and mechatronics engineering David Guerra-Zubiaga said this career-ready experience is invaluable.
“Technological collaboration between industry and academia is important to create opportunities for KSU students,” Guerra-Zubiaga said. “Intelligent and digital manufacturing are important topics, and KSU students are learning about these challenges with the B&R senior project. B&R is providing students with the instruments and controls technologies required for an advanced material handling system.”
For Hurst, who also received a job offer from B&R, the skills taught in the classroom have helped her prepare to work in an industrial setting.
“The professors and their coursework at Kennesaw State really taught me how to communicate with an engineering team and make big projects more attainable,” Hurst said. “The research opportunities at KSU and the ability to work with an industry partner on our senior design project have been wonderful.”