From Tupperware to Hovercrafts, ASME Transforms the Mediocre into the Extraordinary


Courtesy of ASME

Despite its lack of funds, the UM-Flint ASME chapter continues to strive for excellence, even if it means digging into their own pockets.

UM-Flint’s American Society for Mechanical Engineers chapter is giving students an opportunity to experience real-world scenarios in the engineering field through teamwork and project building. 

While ASME is a worldwide organization, UM-Flint is just one of its many chapters. Having been on campus since 2014, ASME started off small and has now grown to 15 members with a wide range of majors, a third of which are women. 

“The bigger of a team you have the more voices you have, the more human power you have, the more minds you have working together and the more you can get done,” said Samantha Hunsinger, ASME’s public relations officer. “Even just this semester we have gotten lots more done now compared to last year at this time.” 

While growth is important for the team, gaining career-like experience in the engineering field is of similar priority for the members.  

One way to acquire this experience is to attend E-Fest at Michigan State University, an engineering festival where various competitions are held and students have a chance to network with professionals in their intended field. 

“Our goal as students is just to get the engineering experience that we might see in the job field. We may not get that as students without an internship or a job,” said ASME Board Member Trace Clinton. “Sitting in class is a lot different than working [and] designing. The competition is a great way every year to get that experience.”

While E-Fest has been cancelled this year due to unforeseen circumstances, it normally has a jam-packed itinerary. From a career fair to competitions happening all throughout the first two days, E-Fest is nothing short of any engineer’s dream. 

Originally set to participate in this year’s IAM3D competition, the club planned on using a 3D printer in the design process to construct a drone.

E-Fest competitors are given a framework about what the product should be–this year it is an unmanned racing vehicle. While working on hitting all the requirements for the specific vehicle, students need to also consider how their product must help solve a real-world challenge.  

“The whole purpose of the chapter is simply to stress the importance and impact of engineering on society,” said Hunsinger. “… Engineers affect much more than people realize. Engineers’ designs and knowledge create everything from the plane you fly on to the building you work and go to school in, to even the chairs you sit on.”

The drone is mostly 3D printed, but is also accompanied by various electronic attachments including a radio-transmitter, a camera, a flight controller and several motors. 

“The thing is, it’s not necessarily a societal issue or something like that. The purpose of it is that it gives us a task that we need to accomplish and then we go about it in the way we do, using our engineering process,” said Clinton.  

To accomplish this task, the drone is accompanied by a claw that is able to pick up items and drop them off elsewhere. 

Treasurer Carl Cornelio also mentioned, “The actual scenario or problem is that you’re supposed to pick up this cube and go around a course and drop it off about five times … it could be health supplies … even in relief situations if there is a flood or something, you can pick up food by a drone and drop it off.” 

Dedicating an entire school year to the project, members work diligently and tirelessly every week in order to make it in time for their April deadline, which is when E-Fest would have taken place.  

Not only do students have to source parts and create a design report detailing the entire product (which can add up to over 40 pages), they also have to make a multitude of prototypes in order to get it just right. 

However, time isn’t the only thing students in the organization donate. ASME members have had to invest a lot of their own money into the association as well. 

And while the university has provided a space for ASME to conduct their meetings (Harrison Street Annex) and has given them access to multiple 3D printers, students rely heavily on donors and grants for everything else, including team t-shirts. 

One recent donor includes Centric Solutions Group, and ASME isn’t stopping with just them–they are trying to collaborate with other businesses and UM-Flint resources, like the Entrepreneur Society, in order to secure better funding.  

Last year, when making a prototype for their hovercraft, members had to use Tupperware since that was all they could afford at the time. 

“… There has been many times our Vice President Paul Beiswenger, or our Treasurer Carl [Cornelio] buy things with their own money simply because we don’t have the funding. Even with being our Public Relations Officer, I buy so many things with my own money just to get our name out there to the rest of campus,” said Hunsinger. 

Since the club has to ship parts from China and provide their own filament for 3D printing, costs can add up quickly. Besides the money needed to actually make the product, admission to E-Fest is no small fee. Costing roughly $1,800 just for registration, students are still paying out-of-pocket for travel to and from the venue along with hotel costs. 

“You accumulate all these costs together, starting from the electronics, the registration … We are also trying to apply for a travel scholarship just so that we can go to the competition and back. Before we just drove there with our personal cars and it was pretty difficult,” said Cornelio. 

When asked for an estimate of an ideal amount of money to complete the project and cover E-Fest expenses, members said $4,000 would provide the best coverage across all aspects, given how large the team is compared to last year.

However, regardless of the price tag, ASME uses the conference as a tool to gain more experience in the engineering field, further exposing students to real-world work scenarios. 

“Everyone on the team has their own reasons they chose engineering and everyone’s passions stem from different things,” said Hunsinger. “A general consensus seems to be the love for creating, designing, hands-on work and most of all, learning. Without the sacrifices we make, we may not be able to do the things we are passionate about.”

Looking forward, ASME has many ideas about bringing more interactive activities on campus to both their members and students looking to dabble in the field of engineering.

Some ideas members had involved bringing famous engineers to UM-Flint to speak about their job, or even hosting an event where students can 3D print their own product. 

“We want people to get the experience,” said Hunsinger. “… To say you’ve been a part of the engineering design team and have had hands-on experience doing what [you’re] going to be doing in [your] career.”