Faced with a problem, N.C. State engineering students at the Havelock campus of Craven Community College came up with a solution to solve it.

Faced with a problem, N.C. State engineering students at the Havelock campus of Craven Community College came up with a solution to solve it.

Seven students set to graduate Friday in the mechanical and aerospace engineering program spent two semesters developing solutions and presented their options before a room full of Fleet Readiness Center East engineers last week.

The students had to figure out a way to rotate an H-53 helicopter rear tail gearbox from horizontal to vertical during the maintenance process.

“You have a real-world project that brings together everything you have learned,” said Bill Fortney, the regional director of engineering at N.C. State’s College of Engineering. “It’s kind of the end experience where you bring all that together and do a real live project. Last fall Cherry Point presented them with this problem, so they have been working both semesters designing their solutions and then today they were presenting their final designs.”

The two teams of students came up with two different solutions for the project, one with a sling design and the other with a dolly design.

“They both did excellent,” said Scott Fisher, support equipment engineering branch head at FRC East. “They both put a lot of time and effort into it this year. We appreciate all their work, a lot of good hard technical work over the course of a year, and for a student project, it was just outstanding.

“The sling is much simpler and a lower cost, however probably still required a little more maintenance effort to use. The dolly is a lot more complicated with a lot more cost, but in the end it will save more money in the long run, so two good solutions and two good options.”

Fisher called the engineering program “fantastic.”

“It gives us a chance to get the home-grown local engineers that want to live in this area that are from this area that have family ties in the area,” he said. “We get a high retention rate of those types of employees. If we can get local people to become engineers and come work for us, that’s the best thing we can hope for. A lot of people don’t want to move away from home to go to college or to a bigger town or a bigger city. It might discourage some of those students from becoming engineers, so when you have this type of opportunity locally, it’s really opening the doors for a lot of people who might not otherwise pursue it.”

Five of the seven graduates already have jobs at FRC East, with the other two pursuing other options.

“It’s an experience that I can’t put a value on,” graduate Ramsey Davis said. “My colleagues are coming out of college with no work experience, whereas I am going to come out of college with three years of experience.

“It’s a little bit more stressful going to school and working full time, but the benefit of that is work experience during my schooling. I also have the ability to take my work experience and use it in the classroom while attending school.”

Davis comes from a family of boat builders and started working at age 10. He earned a degree from N.C. State and worked for Hatteras Yachts and Jarrett Boatworks before entering the program and working for FRC East.

“So it’s been a full development from as low as you can get sweeping the floors to now being able to make design decisions to influence a military platform,” Ramsey said. “I’m currently a structural engineer with the AV-8 program, and so I’m a full-time employee while I’m going to school in the evenings.”

Marissa Olberding had started her education in New York when she married a Marine and moved to Craven County. She was glad to get the opportunity to enter the program in Havelock, rather than having to travel to Raleigh to complete her degree. She worked in the calibration department at FRC East while in the program.

“Senior design was a great experience being able to work on base doing work with people I am going to be working with,” Olberding said. “There was lot of learning that you don’t get in a classroom without that experience. I plan to stay on at FRC for quite some time and probably try and get my professional engineering license and see where it goes from there. It’s a wonderful program.”

Davis wants to stay at FRC East as well.

“I have hopes to one day becoming a production support engineer, or PSE,” he said. “That position is high turn-around, high priority. We’re trying to get serviceable aircraft back to the warfighter as quickly as possible. It’s a high-pressure job necessary for quick and accurate technical decisions to be made.”

Fisher said the program at CCC gives the students opportunities others don’t get.

“There’s a lot of things locally that they get to do with FRC East now, such as this project, that gets them actual experience on the job before even graduating, so in that regards it might give them a leg up on a lot of the other major universities’ on-site campuses,” Fisher said. “People who get that experience now are prepared to come work for us immediately upon graduation rather than taking a lot of time to train engineers right out of school.

“For us, it couldn’t be any better. We get to tailor it. It’s very beneficial for us at FRC East because we’re very involved in the education and help develop some of the class guidelines such as this project so that they get specific experience that we’re interested in them having.”