Manufacturing Students Win Top Award at Prestigious Event

Dec. 4, 2005

Joe Wills

Manufacturing Students Win Top Award at Prestigious Event

California State University, Chico manufacturing technology students won the grand prize at the prestigious WESTEC Manufacturing Challenge April 4 for building a lever-operated wheelchair incorporating three speeds and brakes.

The students will demonstrate their winning creation for the public and media at 9 am on Thursday, April 14, in the lobby of O’Connell Technology Center, Warner and 1st Street.

CSU, Chico bested a field of collegiate competitors that included Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, San Diego State, Washington State and Oregon Institute of Technology. CSU, Los Angeles took the first-place award, followed by Brigham Young University in second and Cal Poly Pomona in third.

CSU, Chico students worked with construction management student Amy Jones in designing the wheelchair. Jones, who uses a wheelchair, tested some of the modifications and provided feedback to the students.

The students took an off-the-shelf wheelchair and retrofitted it with 30 custom parts and bicycle components to enhance its capabilities.

The WESTEC Manufacturing Challenge is held on opening day of the WESTEC Expo, the largest annual machinery show in North America. The Expo and Manufacturing Challenge, in its 20th year, were held in the Los Angeles Convention Center.
CSU, Chico won grand prizes at WESTEC in 1991, 1992 and 2003, and first places in 1987, 1993, 1995 and 1998.

“WESTEC is the largest manufacturing competition west of the Mississippi,” said Dirk Vanderloop, coordinator, CSU, Chico manufacturing technology program. “We compete against the top technical universities and serious rivalries keep things lively. There is a third-place award, but I do not think we have ever received it.”

The Expo and Manufacturing Challenge are sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), which has more than 400 professional and school-based chapters worldwide. CSU, Chico’s manufacturing technology program has an SME chapter and 85 student majors.

Vanderloop said the WESTEC manufacturing project was much more than a classroom exercise. “Our students came up with an innovation that may offer lasting benefit to real people,” he said. “At first I thought what they had proposed was too ambitious. But they didn’t know it was ‘impossible’ to get it done, and proceeded to do it.”


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