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North Dakota State University Engineering Team Wins 3M’s Disruptive Design Challenge

Candace Roulo
By Candace Roulo Managing Editor, SME Media

College students demonstrated their “stick-to-it-iveness” at a recent competition in St. Paul, MN.

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North Dakota State University engineering team wins the Disruptive Design Challenge. The engineering team is pictured here with the Dazzle Box they designed. Photo Credit: Rick Allen.

Four universities—Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison and North Dakota State University (NDSU)—competed in the inaugural 3M Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Disruptive Design Challenge (DDC) at 3M’s headquarters (St. Paul, MN), Friday, April 13. The engineering students from North Dakota State University won the competition, becoming the first-ever 3M Industrial Adhesives and Tapes DDC winner.

DDC is a hands-on, interactive competition that 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes division created to expose and educate the next generation of engineers to the various uses and design benefits of chemical bonding and adhesive solutions. Often, alternative systems are excluded from engineering school curriculums, yet these bonding solutions help solve many design challenges, including strength, fit, flex, impact, aesthetics, noise, weight, speed, sealing and assembly. DDC helps close the knowledge gap by giving future engineers at the collegiate level the experience of applying these technologies to show how they promote the freedom to design.

“The ingenuity and creativity displayed by all the teams is inspiring,” said Ty Silberhorn, division vice president for 3M Industrial Adhesives & Tapes Division (IATD). “We believe one of the best ways to educate young engineers about the design and construction benefits of industrial adhesive and tapes is through hands-on experience. We are proud of all 26 students. As these talented future engineers get closer to entering the workplace, we hope they will draw on their learning and knowledge and incorporate adhesives and tapes into their design, construction and assembly challenges.”

3M teamed-up with the not-for-profit humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief to design the DDC scenario. 3M has been a partner with Direct Relief for 30 years, and together this partnership has helped deliver 1,813 tons of medications, vaccines and medical supplies in all 50 states and 81 countries abroad in FY2016. This year’s DDC was inspired by the distribution of relief supplies to remote and inaccessible locations in the aftermath of a disaster, and each student team was tasked to design and develop an emergency relief delivery container utilizing 3M Industrial Adhesives and Tapes as an alternative to traditional mechanical fasteners.

The goal of the competition was to design a container to overcome current relief challenges, with a focus on ensuring the container carrying relief supplies would survive an air-drop intact. Plus, teams were judged on the resiliency, moisture resistance, technical process and repurposing capabilities of their container. As part of the competition, students documented their design journey and posted content on their social media channels. Judges of the DDC were Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer and roboticist; Patricia Bacuros, director of philanthropic investment for Direct Relief; and Shirin Saadat, IATD technical director for 3M.

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DDC judges pictured from left to right are Patricia Bacuros, director of philanthropic investment for Direct Relief; Grant Imahara, electrical engineer and roboticist; and Shirin Saadat, IATD technical director for 3M.

According to Bacuros, the four teams’ emergency relief containers are different than traditional containers used in the field—these were designed with an outer box, so if there is damage to the outer box, the inner box, where commodities are stored, is still safe.

“All these students have thought out-of-the-box and used all the 3M adhesives and sealants that keep an emergency relief container easily transportable and lighter,” said Bacuros. “You really don’t need tools to build or unpack it. This allows the medical personnel and health care workers to get into these containers easily and get what they need out of them.”

Through NDSU’s container design and construction, the engineering students illustrated the benefits associated with the use of 3M industrial adhesives and tapes. NDSU’s winning container was a truncated octahedron covered in a colorful and distinct geometric design, inspired by “dazzle camouflage,” the opposite of typical camouflage, to ensure their container would stand out in any environment.

“Getting the chance to research an open-ended project was exciting and we generated our own design to see what we could come up with to solve a problem,” said Team Leader Jonathan Carlson, a junior in NDSU’s mechanical engineering program. “This challenge is important because it gives us a chance to use all the knowledge we are learning in school and apply it to something in the real-world and solve an actual problem.”

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Foam inside the container can be removed and re-used to create sleeping mats, pillows and cushions. The container itself has straps, so it can be turned into a backpack. Photo Credit: Rick Allen.

The winning team’s container was constructed with the goal of creating an easy manufacturing process for replacements and building during emergencies. The foam inside the container could be removed and re-used to construct sleeping mats, pillows, and cushions in an emergency. The container itself had straps, so it could be turned into a backpack and easily transported in an emergency.

“I was really impressed with the creative uses the teams came up with for adhesives and tapes,” said 3M Senior Application Engineer John Merchant, who was one of the 3M employees on 3M’s Team 7 that set up the parameters of the student competition. “Some of these teams designed features that would not have worked with mechanical fasteners or bonding materials that are difficult to attach. There are trends towards composite materials and lighter materials that can benefit from adhesives and tapes. Getting out that awareness to the next generation is the primary goal of this competition.”

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The Dazzle Box is loaded on to a crane, then dropped 40-meters (approx. 150 feet to the ground) to test for resiliency.

According to 3M’s Saadat, these students represent the next generation of scientists and engineers who will make discoveries that improve lives by connecting science and technology to ideas.

“The 3M Disruptive Design Challenge offers them an opportunity to hone technical skills, tap into their creativity and, perhaps most importantly, experience the importance of collaboration, which is fundamental to 3M’s values—all while gaining valuable experience with product solutions that are not frequently taught in the classroom,” said Saadat.

Each member of the winning team took home a $1500 prize, as well as skills to help fuel their careers as future engineers.

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