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Coal Handling Virtual Design Review

Covid-19 threw a wrench in our plans for the final design review for students engaged in our Zoo Train Challenge.  MSOE had planned to play host for the session, but as schools and universities first closed and then moved on-line we adjusted as well.

As schools reopened for distance learning, five teams were able to continue work on the challenge to redesign the process used to store and load coal for the Zoo’s steam locomotives. In most cases, they were forced to do so without the resources and physical prototypes they had started to produce. On Wednesday, four teams were able to join a review session on Zoom where they presented their ideas to and took questions from a review panel representing the advisory team for the project. That group included industry professionals from We Energies, Kumatsu, County Materials, as well as faculty and staff from MSOE and UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science.

While the virtual format was less than ideal, two things stood out across the presentations. All of the teams were able to leverage feedback and ideas from the conceptual design review UWM hosted in December to improve not just their designs, but their ability to talk through and communicate their design decisions.  When asked by panelists about where they saw value in the experience, students consistently mentioned both the experience of figuring out how to work effectively as a team, and the opportunity to leverage and learn from outside experts.

Congratulations are due to all of the teams involved in the project. Thanks are also due to their teachers. Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say yes.  Their willingness to involve their students in an open ended project, coordinate student participation in project events, and help their colleagues at other schools with ideas on how to manage project teams is the key ingredient in efforts like this.

Zoo Train Schools and Teachers

  • Elmbrook Launch – Ryan Osterberg
  • Golda Meir – Tina Gleason
  • Menomonee Falls – Robert Regent-Smith
  • New Berlin Eisenhower – Devin McKinnon
  • New Berlin West – Bill Trudell
  • Pathways High School – Angelique Byrne/Chris Kjaer
  • St. Joan Antida – Cynthia McLinn/Melissa Peppler
  • St. Thomas More – Emily Pirkl
  • Wauwatosa East – Julibeth Favour
  • West Allis Dottke – Bernie McCarthy

UWM Hosts Zoo Train Design Review

This past Friday, UWM’s College of Engineering hosted the conceptual design review for students in this year’s Zoo Train Challenge. Teams from 10 area schools presented their ideas to re-work the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.

The Zoo’s current process has train staff manually sift coal into 17 gallon buckets that may weigh 80 to 90 pounds when full. These are then carried over an often slippery, uneven surface where they are staged for use later in the day. When the train stops at the depot to take on passengers, the train crew will hoist and dump these bucket’s into the train’s coal bin, which is close to four feet above ground level. The train team is also concerned with the deteriorating condition of the coal bin and a retaining wall against which coal ash and fines are stored prior to removal.

New Berlin Eisenhower students present their design concepts. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

At this point in the process, most teams focused on the design of a new coal bin that could keep the coal sheltered from rain, and automating or augmenting the process of sifting and loading coal. Teams presented their designs to review panels that included zoo train operators, staff from We Energies coal handing facility, students and faculty from industrial engineering programs at UWM and MSOE, and engineers with GZA Environmental and Komatsu.

  • Elmbrook Launch

Following each presentation, teams responded to questions and feedback from both panelists and peers from other teams. Both panelists and students in the audience for other presentations also provide written feedback for each team.

Golda Meir students provide feedback on presentation by their peers . (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Students will use the feedback and ideas they gained from this session to finalize their designs. The final design review for the project will be hosted by MSOE at the end of April.

Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say yes, so we are extremely grateful to the teachers who stepped up to get their students involved. Thanks also to all those who helped pull both the project and review session together, and of course, the students who have taken on the challenge!

UWM has a brief write-up of the event here: https://uwm.edu/news/gallery/milwaukee-area-students-create-solutions-for-zoo-train/

Zoo train Schools and Teachers

  • Elmbrook Launch – Ryan Osterberg
  • Golda Meir – Tina Gleason
  • Menomonee Falls – Robert Regent-Smith
  • New Berlin Eisenhower – Devin McKinnon
  • New Berlin West – Bill Trudell
  • Pathways High School – Angelique Byrne/Chris Kjaer
  • St. Joan Antida – Cynthia McLinn/Melissa Peppler
  • St. Thomas More – Emily Pirkl
  • Wauwatosa East – Julibeth Favour
  • West Allis Dottke – Bernie McCarthy

MATC Students Put Zoo Train on the Map

While MATC students were doing fieldwork to create a survey of the coal handling area for our Zoo Train Challenge, they took the time to shoot some 3D photos. Those images are now available on Google Maps, and give a good look at the site our Zoo Train students are focused on.

To view other images in the series, pull up the Zoo on Google Maps, and click the icon of the little person in the lower right corner of your browser

We Energies Hosts Site Tours for Zoo Train Students

Over the past two days, We Energies hosted four tours of their coal handling facility in Oak Creek for students in our Zoo Train Challenge. A team of five from We Energies walked students through the procedures they follow to safely store and move coal from when it arrives by train to when it is used in the power plant. On their tour of the facility, students were able to see the equipment and systems in use.

What students learned about how to manage coal on a very large scale, they will now bring to bear as they think through how to revise the coal handling process at the Zoo.

Zoo Train Challenge for 2019-2020 Kick-Off

This year 140 students from 11 area schools will participate in our Zoo Train Challenge– redesign the coal handling process used for the Zoo’s steam locomotives. At yesterday’s kick-off event, students had a chance to visit the site, see what it’s like to lift a bushel bucket of coal, and meet their peers from other schools.

Before we went into a Q & A session, we sat students at tables where they got to know peers from other schools and worked together to identify the questions they wanted to see answered at the session. That process was led by Dr. David Howell from MSOE, who brought along 13 MSOE student volunteers to help facilitate the work at each table.

While students went through that work, teachers and industry advisers had a chance to meet and talk through how they will run the project in their classrooms. Two New Berlin students from last year’s challenge joined us for the event– one, who went to the school board for permission to retake the engineering class so she could participate this year, and a second who is now at MSOE, and came along to help.

UWM Hosts Occupational Ergonomics Sessions for Zoo Train Students

Students from seven area high schools met a UWM yesterday for a session on occupational ergonomics lead by Madiha Saeed Ahmed from UWM’s College of Engineering. The students are part of this year’s Zoo Train Engineering Challenge, will is focused on improving the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.

The current process is to manually sift coal into buckets which can weigh 90 pounds when full. These are carried down an uneven walkway along the tracks where they are staged until needed. When the train staff need to re-load coal for the train, the buckets are dumped into the train’s tender, through an opening that is close to four feet off the ground. Needless to say, plenty of issues to look at.

MATC Students Start Fieldwork for Survey of Coal Handling Area

MATC started their fieldwork to create a survey and site plan of the coal handling area at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The survey work will give students participating in our Zoo Train Challenge an accurate site plan for the area as they look to redesign the coal handling process. The survey effort is led by instructor David Langhoff, who was looking for an opportunity to get his students engaged in a real world project. MATC students working to help middle and high school students help the Zoo. #Collaboration

UWM Hosts Construction Drawing Workshop

Over the past two weeks. with support from Building2Learn, UWM hosted a construction drawing workshop where students from five area schools learned how to use Revit to model the new water tower design for the Zoo. The class was led by Jian Zhao, an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering. 10 Students from Bay View, Brown Deer, Carmen, Messmer and Obama high schools participated in the two week program, mixing work with Revit with visits to the UWM’s engineering labs and makerspace.

Prior to the workshop, Justin Spaeth offered students a half day crash course on Revit to ensure they could hit the ground running at UWM. The process Professor Zhao led students through, starting from scratch on the model each day, allowed them to rapidly learn how to use effectively use the tool. Early the second week, I found students talking through the advantages of modeling one component as a beam vs a column. by the end of the session, most were able to model the entire tower in about two hours.

The support from Building2Learn included help with transportation and a stipend for students. Next step — map out the fabrication process!

UWM Hosts Zoo Train Challenge Design Review

On May 2nd, UWM hosted the final design review for students participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. Teams presented their designs to a review panel that included:

  • Wade Kostiwa, project Manager CG Schmidt
  • Jason Gross, Structural Engineer, Graef USA
  • Davidson Ward, Coalition for Sustainable Rail
  • Ken Ristow Milwaukee County Zoo
  • Brian Krause, Milwaukee County Zoo

Over lunch, the review panel identified key concepts to include in the final specification. This list included contributions from all of the participating teams.

Brett Peters, Dean of the School of Engineering provided closing remarks.

What’s next

We’re grateful to have the help of Jason Gross from Graef to finalize the spec and provide the engineering analysis on the final design. This summer, through the support of Building2Learn, UWM will host a two week workshop for a group of students from area high schools to produce construction drawings for the new tower.

This fall we’ll work with a schools to fabricate components for the tower. That will also see the kick off of our next challenge — design of a coal handling system to replace the current manual process.

If you’d like to get your school or company involved in the initiative, let us know. Here’s how.

Marquette Engineering Visualization Lab Visit

Teams from Menomonee Falls High School and Elmbrook’s Launch program were able to meet us at Marquette’s Visualization Lab (MARVL) to walk through their models for a new water tower at the Zoo train depot. Chris Larke, the Visual Technology Specialist for the College of Engineering set up the demonstration to include exploded views of the models with supporting documentation arrayed in the background.

To explore the models, and conduct a mini-review, we donned 3D glasses to view stereoscopic images projected on four walls within what staff call “The Cave”.

After a review of both models and a chance for students to drive the presentation, Mark Federle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, was kind enough to give us a tour of the Olin Engineering building. Thanks Mark and Chris for all that went in to putting this together!


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