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Engineering, Theatre Programs Collaborate on Unique Student-Led Design

February 15, 2022

ALLIANCE — Senior engineering students at the University of Mount Union have been behind some incredibly unique design projects throughout the program’s history. One ongoing project is an impactful collaboration that will help provide entertainment for years to come.

Led by Mount Union faculty members Dr. Khan Habeeb Ur Rahman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Ryan Patterson, assistant professor of theatre and technical director, students in the mechanical engineering and theatre programs are working together on an affordable, expandable turn table that is also known as a revolve.

Patterson indicated that the project is to develop a design that allows college or community theatre organizations to build, from readily available materials, an affordable turn table which can expand from a 10’ diameter to a 16’ diameter, controlled by Digital Multiplex (DMX) software and have a functional emergency safety stop system. 

                                                         turntable center  turntable frame

The project’s inception came in 2019, only to be cut short by the pandemic. The current group of senior engineering students picked up where that group left off. The design phase of the project is nearing completion and a prototype is to be built in the coming months. 

“Our current students are getting an important experience that happens to many engineers in the industry — take something that was partially designed by someone else and finish it on your own, which is often a harder task then just starting anew,” Patterson said. “Our current group are rising to the occasion and creating something that I think will be new and exciting for the theatre industry.”

The mechanical engineering design team is comprised of Claire Gardner ’22, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; Emmett Davis ’22 of Scio, Ohio; Zachary Hollinger ’22, of Mansfield, Ohio and Brook McClay ’22, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Each student felt that their classroom knowledge was instrumental in this hands-on work. 

“Being a large part of the central drive design takes a lot of thought and calculation. This knowledge and complex thinking have come from the years of engineering classes I’ve taken at Mount,” said McClay, who is moving to South Carolina after graduation to be a design engineer for LEWCO, Inc. “This is also a multidisciplinary project that requires the right amount of communication and out-of-the-box thinking. This has not been a problem for my team, as we are a group of individuals with a variety of skill sets that know what it takes to produce a fully functional product.” 

“For this project, something that I have been working with a lot is Solidworks. The time we spent learning the program in our engineering classes has proven to be invaluable,” said Davis, who has a job offer from SES Engineering upon graduation. “This allowed me to jump right into modeling our design and testing it without having to waste time figuring out how to use the program and what it can do.”



Along with utilizing industry-relevant software and techniques for the project, all the students involved felt empowered by the lasting impact of this project on future Purple Raider performers. 

“The idea of working on something that could be used for years by students really shows the dedication and tenacity of our team,” said Hollinger, who plans to continue working with the ride maintenance team at Cedar Point following a successful internship. “It is comforting to know that after we graduate, we will leave something behind. We’re making our mark here with this project.”

While this project carried a heavy technical responsibility, the result is to create something used by Mount Union’s Department of Performing Arts, creating a unique partnership between engineering and the arts. Pairing a theatre minor with her mechanical engineering major, Gardner offered a unique perspective on this collaboration.

“I also work in the scene shop with the theatre program, so being able to see this project from both the mechanical and artistic sides has allowed the project to truly be multidisciplinary,” said Gardner, who has a post-graduate position as a product support engineer lined up at Component Repair Technologies, Inc. “It allowed me to see not just the individual mechanical pieces, but also the greater artistic goal we’re trying to achieve in the end.”

This project, combined with other engineering senior design projects like the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center bridge, hops harvester and adaptable prosthetic limb, illustrates that Mount Union engineering students continue to participate in distinct experiences for community benefit.

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