Project Examples

Canal Lock Automation Project

Course: 22.425 - Design Machine Elements
Semester: Fall 2005
Instructor: Chris Niezrecki
Partner:Lowell Historical National Park (LNHP)

Brief Description:

The Lowell National Historical Park recently asked the engineering college’s help in designing a mechanism for cleaning the surface of the canals in Lowell from the trash that constantly blows in. Two teams of students (three in each team) developed a Canal Lock Automation Project for the LHNP. The intent of the Canal Lock Automation was to design a mechanism to perform the task of opening and closing automatically an upstream water gate to allow boats to travel through at two different water levels.

Full Description:

The Lowell National Historical Park recently asked the engineering college’s help in designing a mechanism for cleaning the surface of the canals in Lowell from the trash that constantly blows in. The Park provided information regarding canal cleaning project as well as staff time to meet with students. Students worked with the Lowell National Historical Park (LNHP) to investigate ways of mechanically removing canal trash from the historic canal system. Ted Davis, LNHP Facility Manager, provided community oversight and reported that UML students were able to work independently and they were also highly motivated to “do a good job.” In addition, faculty reported that students were motivated, appeared more interested in their design projects as well as helpful in providing potential solutions of interest to the community.

Two teams of students (three in each team) developed a Canal Lock Automation Project for the LHNP. The intent of the Canal Lock Automation was to design a mechanism to perform the task of opening and closing automatically an upstream water gate to allow boats to travel through at two different water levels. The upstream gates that allow boats to pass from one level of water to another in the Lowell Canal currently open and close manually. This process requires an operator to remain by the gate to perform the manual task of opening and closing the gate. The design teams were given the challenge of designing a mechanism that automated the process so that a driver of a boat could push a button on a keypad. The mechanism would control unique parts of the Butterfly Wicket gateway. The students’ report focused upon an analysis of the forces acting upon the gate. A design recommendation for an automated mechanism to open and close the gate was developed. Appropriate materials were selected for design elements. A stress and fatigue analysis was also performed for automated gate design.

Learning objectives met by the S-L project were for students to:

  • Experience the design process, including working directly with a community partners
  • The principles of mechanics and commonly used failure theories were applied to the design and analysis of machine elements subjected to static and dynamic (fatigue) load conditions.
  • Elements studied included power screws, bolts, springs, bearings, gears, lubrication, shafts, brakes, clutches, and belts.
  • Student designs included a stress analysis or fatigue analysis that integrated recommendations
  • Write brief technical reports and incorporate drawings

Community objectives met by the S-L project:

  • Individual partners derived benefit through appropriate mechanical designs tailored to specific needs
  • The LNHP project produced reports that continue to serve as potential mechanical designs to address this ongoing community need.