Making their mark at Maglev
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The first time Doug Hudson dealt with a maglev train design, he was in middle school.
He and classmates built a test track about 15 feet long and they ran a little maglev train over it.
"The point to take away from the project was aerodynamics, but we used maglev," Mr. Hudson said.
Now, at 19, Mr. Hudson, a sophomore at Penn State University McKeesport, is back at it. He spends an afternoon a week working in Maglev Inc.'s shop at the former National Tube Works in McKeesport. Most recently, his task has involved determining the accuracy of the measurements of a lifting welding table.Tony Tye, Post-Gazette
Penn State McKeesport engineering students, from left: Kalley Bisko, of North Huntingdon, Joshua Stover, of Monroeville, and Doug Hudson, of Bethel Park, work with the remote control for a modular welding cell at Maglev Inc. in McKeesport. The students are earning certification in precision manufacturing technology.
Click photo for larger image.
Mr. Hudson, a mechanical engineering major from Bethel Park, is one of four Penn State students working with Maglev Inc. Those students are at Maglev as a requirement for a certificate in precision manufacturing technology.
Maglev Inc. is making the guide rails as prototypes for maglev train systems, which differ from other trains because in maglev systems magnets are located on both the rail and train so the train is lifted, or levitated by the magnetic field and propelled using magnets. The trains are used in Europe and Japan but haven't been used in the United States yet.
While the flash is in the cars of a maglev train as they speed along topping 125 miles an hour, the cash is in producing the rail system, said Fred Gurney, president of Maglev Inc. He said about 95 percent of the cost of a maglev system is in the guideway.
And it's the guideway that must be designed to precise specifications. Bryan A. Bond, an engineer for Maglev Inc., said there is so little room for shifting in a magnetic levitation train system that the rails have to be built to within a millimeter of the specifications over a span of 203 feet.
That need for precision had Mr. Hudson and his classmates, Joshua Stover, 20, of Monroeville, Greg Davis, 20, of Monongahela, and Kalley Bisko, 19, of North Huntingdon, working to measure the accuracy of a hydraulic clamp that will hold steel that needs to be bent and welded.
The technology of manufacturing plates to precise measurements isn't just good for maglev systems. Maglev Inc. President Fred J. Gurney said it is also a way to cut the cost of ship building because when the sections of ships are manufactured, 40 percent of them have to be reworked to fit precisely.
Maglev is hoping to get a contract to produce ship components for the Navy.
The Maglev Inc. training will be expanded in the spring to Community College of Allegheny County for an associate degree in precision manufacturing.
One of the first students from CCAC to study at Maglev will be Robert Calloway, 39, of Bellevue, who is studying robotics at the community college. He said he chose robotics as a field of study because "I wanted to get into something that was cutting edge."
He's a full-time student now, after spending 14 years in the military.
Brent Mallory, another CCAC student, had been working in computer networking, when he said he got bored with the work and decided to go back to school. Mr. Mallory, 32, of North Huntingdon, will be joining the students at Maglev in the spring.
The students at Maglev have put together a database on materials that will be used at the company. They all must complete a safety course, so that putting on hard hats and goggles are second nature before they walk onto the manufacturing-room floor.
Curtiss Porter, the chancellor of Penn State McKeesport, said the partnership with Maglev creates a program in which the students can be mentored as they get work experience.
Mr. Gurney said he hopes to expand the program, which helps Maglev build the workforce the region needs to attract highly skilled manufacturing jobs.
The four Penn State McKeesport students who are Maglev students aren't just getting experience in their chosen field. They are also earning credits, a certificate and a tuition stipend -- "for which we are very grateful," Mr. Stover said.
First Published November 22, 2006 12:00 am