Gary Meier, Machine Shop instructor at BRTC, had a very unique project for his students this semester. They were given the opportunity to help construct a Ferris wheel for a Christmas display. The display is located in Ravenden at the home of Butch Dail, Auto Collision Repair instructor, and is open for viewing by the public each year.
“I had a vision of a Ferris wheel for a Christmas yard ornament,” Dail explained. “Children like moving things, so I thought the Ferris wheel would be great. I approached Gary (Meier) with the idea.”
Dail furnished all of the supplies and built the seats. Each seat has a different character including Santa Claus, an elf, and reindeer. Clay County Electric donated the spool.
“Six students participated in the project, which was a great learning experience,” said Meier. “It took one week for them to complete the project where they learned about many things including gear speeds, commutator functions, design, fabrication, and how to build without a print.”
The students took the spool apart and cut it down to form the wheel. They also built the trailer that the Ferris wheel is mounted on. The most complex part of the project, according to Meier, was designing the commutator, an electrical switch, which is a common feature of rotating machines. “By reversing the current direction in the moving coil of a motor’s armature,” Meier explained, “a steady rotating force, or torque, is produced to turn the wheel. This keeps the strands of lights from getting entangled in the wheel.”
The completed structure stands 12 feet tall and has over 300 LED lights on it. “My family helps with the decorations,” Dail explained. “This is something we started doing years ago and it just keeps growing. The Machine Shop students have helped in the past with building structures to add to the Christmas display.”
“I want to commend the students for their work on this project and for their engineering skills,” added Dail. “Through their learning process and experience in the program, they were able to create something that will be admired by a lot of people.”
In addition to creating unique items through the Machine Shop program, students have also had the opportunity to tour companies that utilize the same types of machinery and manufacture the same types of components that they are using and learning about in class.
Meier took some of his students to Little Rock where they toured Haas, a machinery company that builds the machinery used in Machine Shop at BRTC. They then traveled to Maumelle to tour Molex, a manufacturer of electrical connections. At both places, the students watched demonstrations, heard about real-world experiences and, their favorite part, according to Meier, heard how much money workers can make in the Machine Shop industry.
“The Machine Shop program provides students with unique opportunities and experiences that pertain to real-world applications,” said Meiers. “I want the learning process to be fun and enjoyable, while also demonstrating the many different areas that their skills can be used in.”