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07/07/2021 | Pressemitteilung

How mechanical engineering and students come together

Doesn't a mechanical engineer only do something with cars? What do you actually learn in a mechanical engineering course? Prof. Dr. Angelika Brückner-Foit and Christian Skaley from the University of Kassel showed the students at Kassel's Lichtenberg School that mechanical engineering is versatile and answered: How much material can I take away from a component so that it still holds?

Image: Vanessa Laspe.
Teacher Dr. Regina Gente and Christian Skaley (University of Kassel) handing over the pen bowls.

Ten students from Kassel's Lichtenberg School hold their self-designed 3D-printed pen bowls in their hands. Under the guidance of their teachers Dr. Regina Gente and Dr. Hans-Jürgen Harms, they constructed the 3D models in the elective course "Junior Engineering Academy" using the program "TinkerCAD". The task was: A pencil tray should be constructed in a material-saving way, but be stable enough to withstand the impact of a heavy book falling from a shelf onto the tray without damage.

Prof. Brückner-Foit, project manager for service life and reliability in the Department of Machine Elements and Tribology at the University of Kassel, explained to the students in advance the topic of topology optimization in virtual lessons and what forces act when the book impacts. Dipl.-Ing. Christian Skaley, chief designer at the same department, and master's student Beatrice Arendes optimized the designs using a computer program.

Optimizing the designs

"I wanted to show the students what is possible in mechanical engineering. By applying the so-called finite element method, I showed how a structural analysis works on the computer to create a basis for the following optimization of the design. Another software is then responsible for how to optimize the design in terms of the amount of building material needed," Skaley explains. After all, once the design is complete, the question is: How much material can I take away from the construct so that it uses less material and weighs less, but still holds up? This topology optimization is used in aerospace, automotive and civil engineering.

"Beatrice Arendes optimized two designs, which we then 3D printed," Skaley says. The remaining designs were also printed at the University of Kassel and handed over to the junior engineers.

The Junior Engineer Academy

In the Junior Engineer Academy, the students get an idea of what an engineer's job is like through practical application. Using the pencil trays, they work through the process themselves, from design to optimization to printing, and end up with a finished product.

"It was very enriching that our students were able to gain insights into the current research field of topological optimization during homeschooling at Lockdown through this cooperation and were even able to work in this field themselves. What was exciting here was to experience that an intuitive approach to optimization allows students to do this," says Dr. Gente. Student Nuraa Barekzay (15) wanted to try something new in the STEM direction with this elective: "I learned how to design objects effectively and thought the 3D printing experience was cool." Timo Block (15) liked the creative work and learning about lightweight construction. "I could imagine starting my own business in the future."

At the Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg-Schule, a high school in the Kassel district, the two-year Junior Engineer Academy is led by Dr. Hans-Jürgen Harms (physics and chemistry) and Dr. Regina Gente (mathematics and physics). The Lichtenberg School is a MINT-EC school. The Junior Engineer Academy is sponsored as part of the Telekom Foundation.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering also gives high school students an insight into the department and its studies on Technology Day or Girls Day, among other events. At the University of Kassel, interested students can still apply until September 01, 2021 to start studying mechanical engineering in the winter semester.

About the study program:


University of Kassel
Dipl.-Ing. Christian Skaley (CEC)
Email: christian.skaley[at]uni-kassel[dot]de

Dr. Regina Gente
E-Mail: r.gente[at]kollegium.lg-ks[dot]de