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PSU students designing custom control system for professor

Automotive technology Professor Tim Dell needed an electronic transmission shifter for a Lexus. Pittsburg State students enrolled in Automation 3: Immersive Experiences have taken up the project.  

Martin Tholstrup, junior in electronics engineering technology, is the team lead and project engineer.   

“…(Dell) hasn’t been able to operate it (the Lexus) and show it to his students because he doesn’t have any device that will shift through the different gears,” Tholstrup said. “We are basically combining automation with automotive…”  

Zachary Westfall, senior in the electrical engineering technology, is the lead electrician/assembler on the project.  

“The entire Automation 3 class is assigned different tasks on the project,” Westfall said. “…The class has done a really good job at working together on the project and assessing different objectives that have to be met. There has also been a lot of shared knowledge about the project that has made getting parts for the project easier and wiring go smoothly.”  

In addition to Tholstrup and Westfall, there are six other students working on the project: Dedrick Cooper (lead physical designer), Trenton Allison (assistant electrician/assembler), Hayden Compton (lead automation engineer), Blake McCollough (assistant automation engineer), Kevin Birk (test engineer), and Josh Ray (documentation writer).  

According to Westfall, the students working on the project have had opportunities to learn and grow.  

“Working on the project has given Automation 3 the chance to learn more about car transmissions and more unique applications of PLC logic devices,” Westfall said.  

Tholstrup also believes that the project has been a test for the students and that they’ve learned a lot.  

“We have probably used almost every bit of knowledge that we have gained from the two previous automation courses on this project,” Tholstrup said. “This project has forced us to think outside-the-box as we were given only the little information that Dr. Dell was able to provide due to the transmission being newer and the manufacturers not giving out information freely. Professor Shaver’s classes, especially this one, have taught us, or at least me, to look at a problem from multiple angles and try to find the best possible solution. I try to live by Prof. Shaver’s saying, ‘A problem well-stated is a problem half solved.’ I think the problem for most of us was just stating the problem well because of the lack of answers out on the internet. I even went to automotive repair shops trying to find answers.  

In particular, Tholstrup feels like a better leader after the experiences with this project.  

“This project has really shown me that being a leader, especially of a group of seven people, which I have never done before, is not easy. The hardest part for me has been keeping communication alive and well. My team has all had their fair share of hardships on this project, as well, but we have definitely come out more knowledgeable than we were before.”  

The students hope to have the control system installed and operational before the end of the semester.  

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