WSU Senior Project – Concepts and Challenges

Guest post by WSU Senior Project Team

As a senior project for their engineering class, a team of WSU students is designing and developing a cart for use in AREVA’s nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities in Richland, Wash. This is the second blog post in a series tracking their progress.

We are currently about two months into our senior design project with AREVA. At first, there were a lot of reservations and uncertainty about the project. We knew the overall goal of the partnership between AREVA and our mechanical engineering class was to have us work on a specific engineering project for two semesters and to go through the entire engineering process, which broke down in three parts:

  1. Defining a need or problem,
  2. Designing/engineering a solution, and
  3. Building and implementing the solution to solve the need or problem.

Before we defined the need, we really didn’t know what to expect. We later found out we were tasked with improving the design of a “NAF Pellet Boat Transfer Cart.” We didn’t really understand what that was, but we knew it would come with expectations and responsibilities.

One of the team’s preliminary pellet cart design concepts testing ergonomics and ease of use.

One of the team’s preliminary pellet cart design concepts testing ergonomics and ease of use.

We started the project off by having a kick-off meeting between AREVA managers and the WSU team. From there, we began our conceptual design, and identified the current design issues with the NAF cart.

During the conceptual design period, we brainstormed together and held meetings with representatives from AREVA for additional guidance and input. Some of the challenges that we faced were setting up clear lines of communication between WSU team members. We struggled to set up a time when we could meet as a team that would not interfere with our school and work schedules.

However, despite the challenges there has been a huge amount of learning that has already occurred. A real-life engineering problem like this is not solved easily. This project has already taught us a lot about how to plan and tackle a large engineering project. Some of the challenges that we have encountered with this project so far are the very strict guidelines on what kind of equipment, materials, and processes can be used. We also have to continually think about the end-user of the product and how our design will function best for them while still being safe and efficient.

Our next step will be holding a meeting with AREVA managers, to discuss what our conceptual design ideas are and receive feedback and input from AREVA. Once we receive input on our conceptual designs, we can move forward with our 50% design where we will begin developing more detailed drawings and plans.

WSU students: Jared Beauchene, Jose Chavez, Travis Lewis, Juan Mejia, Manuel Bustos Ramirez, Alex Schwartz.
WSU advisor: Dr. Messiha Saad.