Andrew Bennett achieves new heights at CDME
In 2019, Andrew Bennett, a senior graduating this fall with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, discovered the abundant opportunities at The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME).
Since then, he’s made an immense impact on industry projects. In 2019, he developed a system involving a collaborative robot and designed the user interface to control the robot in collaboration with CDME and VEGA Americas. Currently, he is working with printed circuit boards (PCB) that are malfunctioning due to incorrectly routed vias. Vias are plated holes connected to the metal circuits within PCB boards to conduct electrical connections between the different layers.
“The vias are tying the ground and power planes together, which is essentially creating an internal short on the board,” Bennett said. “The vias are physically part of the PCB and the only way to break that short is to drill out the vias. We can’t drill much larger than one millimeter or we will damage other parts of the board. So, we're trying to figure out the best way to do that without damaging anything else.”
The most challenging aspect of working at CDME, Bennett says, is that a lot of the projects are more hands-on than in the classroom, which lends itself to more learning on the fly. The coursework is more theoretical based, while students can learn the technical side through hands-on work with industry partners at CDME. Students learn how to solve real engineering problems while working on real projects.
“In an engineering problem, if you get stuck on something for a while and then you solve it, it allows the project to continue and eventually finish. Something tangible and useful comes out of that process and you feel like you've contributed to society in some way. I've only ever gotten that from working on real projects at CDME. I feel like if you talk to pretty much any engineer, they'll agree that the most satisfying part about engineering is problem-solving. Because really, fundamentally, that's what engineering is, it's just that we tend to solve very specific kinds of problems, depending on which area you get into.”
A lot of the projects Bennett collaborates on are introduced by Vimal Buck, senior researcher and director of cybersecurity at CDME. Bennett says Buck serves a great deal in his professional development, introducing him to books about how to approach programming in embedded systems. The books help Bennett gain a new perspective and ways to organize structures that he wasn’t aware of beforehand.
“It has been very fulfilling to work with and mentor Andrew over the last few years. Andrew has grown tremendously in his skill set and in his confidence in solving problems,” Buck said. “I think CDME has helped refine and polish a lot of skills that Andrew had been developing through his extra-curricular activities. I can definitely see the growth in understanding embedded programming and systems from a student that took my introductory class in microcontrollers, to someone who did several projects at CDME in an apprentice role, and now into a colleague who is ready and able to solve problems independently.”
Bennett’s expertise shines beyond the scope of CDME as well. Prior to his return to CDME, he interned at Dynetics.
“Some of the most interesting work I did would have been during my internship at Dynetics,” said Bennett. "I got to work on part of a system for a spacecraft.”
This internship reinforced his excitement to get into the aerospace industry after he graduates this fall. Bennett is interested in avionics design due to his passion for spaceflight.
After Bennett’s internship, Buck asked him to return to CDME. One of the tasks he introduced was a battery testing project. With that, Bennett designed test cells, including a custom PCB that he designed to discharge batteries with a constant current. Bennett’s work doesn’t stop there. Halfway through a different project, he was brought on to finish some custom test hardware for testing glove durability. During this, he ended up having to toss the software they were using and write the entire program from scratch.
"It was a machine where you put a glove on a porous mannequin hand, that would maintain negative pressure inside the glove. It had an actuator that pushed a sandpaper paddle down onto the glove repeatedly. You would detect when the glove fails because there will be a break in the negative pressure, equalizing with local air pressure. It was an automatic machine for testing how long it takes gloves to fail,” Bennett explains. “The purpose of this machine was to test different kinds of plastics and see how they compare to each other. The gloves were ones used in surgical procedures.”
As Bennett prepares for graduation, he recognizes how CDME played a huge factor in building various critical skills. At CDME, he was able to get real-world experience while gaining skills for working in industry. He is excited more than ever about going into the spacecraft industry.
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By: Evahanna Cruz, CDME Marketing and Communications Student Assistant