Eaton awards bright ideas

The sum of $15,000 can help take a bite out of college tuition. That's how much a team of mechanical engineering graduate students shared as grand prize winners in the first Eaton Mechanism Design Contest. In the future their ideas could be worth a lot more.

Erik W. Nafstad, Mankato, Minnesota, Troy Nickel, Edina, Minnesota, and Matthew J. Hansen, Bettendorf, Iowa, took top honors by designing a mechanism required to perform the quick-acting opening and closing of electrical contacts within a switching device. All three students are working towards their master's degrees in mechanical engineering.

University of Illinois mechanical engineering students Brian P. Nuel, Palos Heights, Illinois, and Chad Sager, Colona, Illinois, were awarded $5,000 for their second place mechanism design entry. Nuel is pursuing his master's degree and Sager his bachelor's degree.

Three students took first place in the Eaton Mechanism Design Contest. (From left): Glen Allgaier, general manager, and Bill Farrow, research engineer, both from CoRD-Milwaukee; Erik Nafstad, Troy Nickel and Matt Hansen, first place winners from the University of Minnesota; and John Wafer, engineering manager, Power Distribution Components Division, Pittsburgh.

Outside ideas come in The design contest, which was developed and coordinated by Bill Farrow, research engineer, Corporate Research and Development Center-Milwaukee, was an innovative way to get ideas for new products. "We put out the contest specifications on Eaton's Web site and also sent them directly to selected universities," said Farrow. "We received inquiries from as far away as Queensland, Australia. In the end, we had 10 design reports which were turned over to the judges."

While the prize money was nice, Nickel of the Minnesota team, said that his team also enjoyed the competition. "We've had an advanced mechanism course, and our professor always encourages us to get involved in these kinds of competitions, regardless of the prize," said Nickel. "It never hurts to do what the prof thinks is a good idea!"

A possible C-H future Students toured the facility, reviewed their designs with Cutler-Hammer engineers and talked about future opportunities with the company. "The contest was very productive," concluded Farrow. "Not only to bring in innovative ideas, but to bring in possible employees. We were able to build relationships with certain schools where there is potential for mechanical design engineering students to start a relationship with Eaton."

Three merit prizes of $500 each were presented to University of Minnesota students David Pankratz and Todd College as a team, Lance Thoresen, and the team of Brian Jensen and Gregory Roach of Brigham Young University.

The awards presentation took place at the Eaton Cutler-Hammer Technology and Quality Center in Pittsburgh were small circuit breakers are designed. Glen Allgaier, general manager of CoRD-Milwaukee, officiated at the ceremony.



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Renald Romain