George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mechanical Engineering design teams reorganize and redirect for successful outcome

April 27, 2020   /   by Ryley McGinnis

Mason's Interim President Anne Holton looking at 3D renditions of boats.

In the fall semester, Mason's Interim President Anne Holton met members of the hull and propulsion teams and saw 3D printed models of their designs. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Office of Communications.

Two mechanical engineering senior design teams’ mission to bring Tesla-like efficiency to the water took a dive when classes went virtual.

The two teams, led by Alex Stickel and Joseph Canlas, started their designs in the fall semester as part of a year-long senior design project. Their mission was to build the hull of a ship and an electric propulsion system, to create a fuel-efficient design that could compete in the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) annual competition, Promoting Electrical Propulsion for Small Craft Initiative.

After the fall semester ended, the hull and propulsion teams decided on their final designs. “On the hull side, we ended up choosing a skinny trimaran main hull with two branches shooting off of it,” says Stickel. “Ultimately for the propulsion system, we decided to convert a gas outboard power unit to an electrically run system,” says Canlas.

The Washington Marina donated an outboard system to the propulsion team for the team to convert, and the hull team had finished setting up their 3D printer so they could start bringing their designs to life.

Both teams were at pivotal points in their projects before spring break. The hull team was one day from starting 3D printing, while the propulsion team was almost done with manufacturing and was going to move onto testing their propulsion system on a canoe.

“The 3D printing was going to take the longest and was the part we were most excited about, to see our virtual designs materialize,” says Stickel. “It was pretty disheartening. Our assembled 3D printer and our parts are all just sitting waiting to be used.”

Undeterred by their disappointment, the team has adjusted to their new normal and is working to show how hard they’ve worked all year on this project. “Organization has been a huge part of how we deal with things. Reorganizing and taking time to figure out what the next steps were and having active communication was key to this transition,” says Canlas.

“Situations don’t stay steady; they are always dynamic and changing. This is a lesson in leadership,” says Nathan Kathir, associate professor and head of senior design capstone for mechanical engineering.

“This was the best outcome I can think of,” says team member Josh Stickel. “This is a very serious virus, and while it’s sad that we won’t be able to deliver the product to our sponsor, this is the responsible choice.”

This story is part two of a previous story, Senior design team builds sustainable ships.