Expansion of Pneumatic Systems in ME2110: Creative Decisions and Design
ME2110 Creative Decisions and Design is a mechanical engineering design course at the
Georgia Institute of Technology. Each semester in this course, student teams are assigned a final
design project in which they build machines that compete against each other. In the past,
students were provided an electronics kit that included a computer controller box, DC and
stepper motors, solenoids, and sensors. A major improvements to this supply kit was the
addition of pneumatic components. In addition to motors and solenoids, students had the option
of using a pneumatic tank/valve/cylinder system as a source of power. The designs the ensuing
semester were much more creative and effectively utilized the pneumatic supplies. It was
obvious that the pneumatic supplies were a great educational tool. Figure 1 shows the
electronics and pneumatics kit in its current format, with the pneumatic system in the foreground.
Figure 1. Electronics and Pneumatics Kit.
Because the number of the students in ME2110 during the summer semester is limited,
experimentation of the distribution of supplies was possible. Instead of just one pneumatic
cylinder, each student team was given two pneumatic cylinders to use. It was evident to the
faculty that the extra cylinder spurred ideas and designs not possible with only one cylinder. The
summer designs were generally more powerful and reliable than in semesters past—in large part
due to the extra cylinder. An example of a competition round from the Summer 2006
competition is shown in Figure 2.
Given the success of the summer semester, the decision was made to expand the pneumatic
systems given to the students. Each team would be given one more cylinder and valve.
Historically, the ME2110 class has had as many as sixty teams. To properly incorporate this
expansion, it was necessary to have 120 valves and cylinders, so each team can be given two
valves and two cylinders.
The generous grant of the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) allowed the purchase of
the additional cylinders and valves. Through Festo, we ordered sixty-four additional matching
Solenoid Valves (VPLE18-M5H-4/2-1/4-SA) and fifty-two matching Single Acting Cylinders
(ESNU-20-50-P-A). This order now provides up to sixty teams two cylinders and valves with
each of their kits.
The faculty is always looking for ways to enhance the level of education and inventiveness of
the students. The expansion of the pneumatic system was a clear and easy decision to make
given the success the students already had in the summer semester. This grant from the NFPA
made this expansion possible.
Figure 2. One round of competition from Summer 2006.