Zoo Train Challenge – Conceptual Design Review

Teams participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives presented their concepts at MSOE on Monday.  We have more than 65 students involved, representing ten teams from six high schools.  Given the number of students involved, we ran parallel sessions for the reviews, with each team presenting before a panel that included civil engineers from Excel and MSOE, experts in railroad history from The Center for Railway Photography & Art and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (our partner in this effort), and the staff which maintain and operate the Zoo’s train.

We asked teams to cover, not only their designs, but how they organized their efforts, alternatives they considered, and where they need additional help.  Students from Elmbrook’s media program stepped up to record all of the presentations for students and teachers to review.

  • Elmbrook Launch Team 3

After a short break for lunch we pulled everyone back together for a recap session with all of the reviewers.  That provided an opportunity for the panelists to summarize what they saw in their session within a few broad themes.  One of the most interesting things for us was to see the different ways schools with larger groups organized their teams– by functional area of the tower, expertise of the team, member, or into smaller teams who would each produce a design concept.  We used the recap session to engage students and teachers in a discussion of how that worked and what it felt like over the course of the semester.

We’re pulling the teachers together next week for a debrief to guide adjustments we’ll want to make as we go into the detailed design phase next semester. That work will begin and end with visits to UWM– first, for a chance to play in UWM’s structures lab, and, on May 2nd, for the detailed design review where the review panelists will select an approach to be fabricated and installed.

We are very grateful to MSOE for hosting the event and working with us to get everything in place.  They provided a beautiful setting with the 4th floor conference area inside the Grohmann Tower.

The Journal Sentinel was also on hand to cover the event. You can find their write up here.

MSOE Hosts Workshop for Zoo Train Challenge

MSOE played host to students participating in our Zoo Train Challenge for a workshop on structural considerations for water towers.  To accommodate all of the teams in a format that allowed students a chance to discuss design concerns, MSOE ran sessions on Thursday and Friday this week.  MSOE faculty provided a quick overview of several factors the students ought to consider. Following the presentation, MSOE engineering students joined the faculty in responding to student questions.

Zoo Train Challenge Kick-off

Our Zoo Train challenge kicked off this morning with close to 70 students from 6 area high schools meeting at the Zoo. This year students are taking on the design of a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. The tower has been in place since the train was first installed at the Zoo 60 years ago. At that time it was positioned between the two sets of tracks that run past the station. When safety requirements dictated four feet of clearance between the train and the tower it was moved to its present location, near the gate where riders exit.

On hand for the event were Davidson Ward, from the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), and Ken Ristow, who has worked as an engineer for the Zoo train for the past 20 years. Davidson provided background on CSR’s bio-fuel testing at the Zoo. CSR is working with the University of Minnesota to develop a fuel to replace coal for recreational steam railways like the Zoo’s. Ken was able to address what it’s like to work with the current water tower, where they’ve had to make do, and what they’d like to see improved. That includes the educational display which currently stands near the water tower.

Student teams had been given a set of guidelines for the project at the start of the semester, so they came well prepared with questions for us, CSR, and Zoo staff.

Design Thinking Workshop at Briggs & Stratton

We were delighted to have Briggs & Stratton’s Concept Team host a design thinking workshop for students engaged in our Zoo Train Challenge.  The Briggs team took the students through a crash course in design thinking following the model developed at Stanford’s D School.

With that as background, students walked through a process to:

  • Understand the concerns of Zoo staff who interact with the water tower used to service the Zoo’s steam locomotives
  • Define a key problem that would be the focus of their efforts
  • Generate ideas for potential solutions
  • Create a prototype to demonstrate their concept.

 

Beyond sparking some initial thinking, the session served as a great chance for teachers leading student teams to connect around how they look to run the project.

The session wrapped up with a chance to explore some Briggs & Stratton designs in virtual reality and a great deal of pizza.