Rochester Research: Anderson Makes Assembly and Design Easier for Engineers


Thomas Anderson loves engineering. A lot.

“I major in mechanical engineering with a minor in electrical and computer engineering. I originally wanted to double major in both and realized that was a lot of credits, even though I was overloaded, so I decided to major in one and do a minor in the other,” laughed Anderson. “I ended up liking the mechanics [Engineering] more because I really like that you can use math and physics to your advantage to [then] do something physical that can work.

When not in class, you can see Anderson 3D printing parts of his design, dropping things, or traveling across the country. “I went to Mississippi and Utah this summer, which was pretty cold,” Anderson said. “I saw Antelope Island which is a national park full of antelope and stuff. Oh and the brine shrimp which was really fun – lots of hiking around.

Anderson has also served on the board of directors of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), an honors club where he was the event coordinator, and was involved in the university’s robotics club, where he became passionate about engineering and became more involved in the mechanical industry. “I did two internships: one last year, which basically worked for an aerospace MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) company called StandardAero, and another company called Chromalox, which manufactures immersion heaters for different customers and industries. .”

At StandardAero, Anderson’s project involved working in the jet engine test cells for turboprops, which have propellers or, as Anderson calls them, “rotating blades” on the outside. There, Anderson’s job was to redesign the emergency shutdown system for the airframes to ensure it worked as it should for the Rolls-Royce AE2100 and T56 engines.

“The big problem was that the emergency stop (emergency stop) would cut the whole engine, but the workers couldn’t stop the engine as quickly as they wanted,” Anderson said. “The big problem with that is that the fuel valve itself had about 50 feet of pipe between it and the actual engine, so even when the valve was closed, the engine would still have fuel to run for a while. C This is bad because the oil lines that feed oil to lubricate the inside of the engine would shut off sooner than the fuel.The attached engine would grind inside.

Anderson solved this problem by specified and added a new air valve to the emergency stop wiring that was much closer to where the fuel enters the engine. “It’s so that the engine downtime is much less,” Anderson explained. “For example, in an emergency, we want the emergency stop to work quickly, say in 30 seconds. We don’t want it to take 6 minutes.

Along with this, Anderson completely redirected the functionality of the old emergency stop to ensure that it worked safely and efficiently. “So I shut off power to everything in the test room except one protected switch, then modified the existing emergency stop to just shut off fuel and send signals to the engine to turn it off. The whole experience was pretty cool. I had a lot of fun with it,” he added.

At Chromalox, Anderson’s job was simpler. His main goal was to create “IKEA-style” instruction manuals that condense engineering from the ground up and make it more easily accessible to workers. “Until then, about 43% of heaters failed final tests because they were incorrectly assembled. Many new workers were there with no training or reference on how to do things right. Making better instruction manuals for different types of heaters would help workers understand this information and it kind of helped me learn the manufacturing processes of heaters.

Early in his internships, Anderson faced his challenges head-on. “In my first internship they just kind of said ‘we need you to do this project, find it yourself’, basically. One of the issues in the first two weeks was is that I was just asked to build an electrical system and you weren’t really given any guidance where to start.So the first two weeks I figured out the system and layout by myself- same, and I kind of got things done independently. It was both a lot of fun and at the same time very nerve-wracking because I spent a few days thinking “what the hell is what am I doing” and “is it even useful” and you freak out a bit.

Anderson’s hard work paid off when his ingenuity, research and hard work not only helped him build his engineering skills, but also enabled him to leave a lasting impact on the industry he love. “At StandardAero, my big ‘Aha!’ The moment came a few weeks later where I felt like I finally understood how the machine system is put together and what goes with what I was looking at the actual physical system, looking at all the wires and where they go were connecting, and I finally figured out how it all came together. That was really great because it allowed me to document things that hadn’t been documented about the functionality of the engine, and I could now work on finding a solution to the problems. I could actually get from point A to point B now in my project.”

At Chromalox, Anderson’s solutions have had lasting business effects that are felt on many levels. “A big moment was when several heaters they were working on were finally put together correctly and they were using [my] manual to mount it. It’s really nice to know that something I had been working on was actually useful and delivered something.

Chromalox has discussed making Anderson’s instruction manuals available at their factories around the world. “Who knew that me and a group of 22-year-olds who spent a summer creating these manuals could have impacted not only the specific factory I interned at, but other factories as well. Chromalox in the world?”

Anderson encourages those interested in engineering or research to persevere in their struggles. “If you are doing an internship, expect the first two weeks to feel like you don’t know what you are doing and what your goal is, and while that sucks, it’s important to recognize that it will be a struggle at the start. . It will eventually pass. ”

Being in her senior year, Anderson aims to finish college. “And then in terms of a career plan, I would like to do something in aerospace or additive manufacturing, those are the two industries I want to go into.”

But that’s not all.

“Oh, and I really want to work as an engineer in Antarctica for at least a year after I graduate,” Anderson said unfazed. “That would be really, really cool.”

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