Advanced Manufacturing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Educating the Next Generation of Innovators


Media Relations

September 20, 2016

Advanced Manufacturing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Educating the Next Generation of Innovators

Rensselaer Team Takes Second Place at Annual Student Manufacturing Design Competition

Troy, N.Y. — Advanced manufacturing is accelerating the translation of American innovations in science and technology into new products and processes. This hits close to home at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as it continues to develop new strategies and programs to educate the next generation of innovators. This past summer, a team of Rensselaer students garnered second place during the annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) / Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Student Manufacturing Design Competition.

The Student Design Competition provides a platform for ASME student members to present their solutions for a range of design problems — from everyday household tasks to groundbreaking space exploration. Each team is required to design, construct, and operate a prototype meeting the requirements of an annually determined problem statement. The competition was held during the 44th SME North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC) and the Manufacturing Engineering Division conference, which was hosted by Virginia Tech. The event is the premier international forum for applied research and industrial applications in manufacturing and design.

The Rensselaer team was represented by Morgan Schweitzer ’16, who was the only female presenter at the competition. Schweitzer graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The team designed the “DeskBuddy” desk set, a Rensselaer-themed desk organizer that includes a corkboard to hold pushpins, magnetic components to hold paperclips, and a clock, along with storage space for writing utensils. The set is composed of 12 different manufactured and purchased components, using manufacturing processes such as plastic injection molding, 3-D printing, water-jet cutting, deep drawing, CNC machining, shearing, ultrasonic welding, heat staking, and robotic assembly to produce and assemble the components.

Rensselaer also had another team that was selected as one of the eight competition finalists – the MILL Carabiner team, represented by Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. candidate James Garofalo.

“Rensselaer students in the Manufacturing Processes and Systems class in the Manufacturing Innovation Learning Lab (MILL) are the next generation of leaders in manufacturing.” said Sam Chiappone, director of manufacturing innovation for the School of Engineering. “The MILL allows students the opportunity to see engineering theory applied to how things are made and, in turn, makes them better engineers and leaders.”

While at Rensselaer, Schweitzer’s team took part in the two-semester course Manufacturing Processes and Systems (MPS) in the MILL. The main objective of the course is to teach future industry leaders technical appreciation for the manufacturing process through a study in manufacturing theory, manufacturing system design, laboratory experimentation, project management, and budgeting. Teams are tasked with designing and budgeting a manufacturing system to be used to produce 400 units of a product requiring multiple coordinated manufacturing processes with the assistance of faculty, staff, and industrial partners.

In the fall semester, the student team designed a manufacturing system, complete with engineering documents and standard operating procedures. During the spring semester, the team focused on optimizing the parts and tooling designs within the manufacturing system.

“As the project manager, I found myself leading a team of extraordinary people while we explored the area between classroom theories and industry practices,” said Schweitzer. “MPS built a solid manufacturing foundation that has helped shaped my understanding of engineering design and my own entrepreneurial aspirations. Today, I am working at Compusearch as a functional consultant, and am a co-founder of the startup Guide, which designs and creates products for the blind and visually impaired. Guide was developed with help and funding from the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship in the Lally School of Management, and the Change the World Challenge competition.”

This year, the industrial partner team included: Alcoa Fastening Systems & Rings, Allendale Machinery – Haas Factory Outlet, AngioDynamics, Chief Executives Network for Manufacturing of the Capital Region, CTM, GE Global Research, Putnam Precision, RBC Bearings Inc., Sandvik, Sikorsky, Simmons Machine Tool Corporation, Snap-on, Sonoco, and Specialty Silicone Products.

“My over 40 years of design and manufacturing experience allows me to guide the MPS students through the product and process design and prototyping process,” said Larry Ruff, senior systems engineer. “I provide input as needed, but the goal of the class is to have the students learn through solving the problems they encounter as they develop their manufacturing system.”

“The MILL is a manufacturing platform with resources that supports Rensselaer’s focus on educating the next generation of manufacturing leaders and innovators,” said Chiappone, who has played a key role in developing the MILL, and also serves as an instructor in the Advanced Manufacturing certificate program for graduate students.

Next month, Rensselaer will partner with Sikorsky to host its annual National Manufacturing Day program on Friday, October 14. The keynote speaker for the event, now in its fifth year, is Ryan Patry, manager of manufacturing technology for manufacturing engineering at Sikorsky Aircraft. The program is open to the campus, and more than 250 Capital Region students are slated to attend. The event will feature undergraduate-led team group tours through Rensselaer manufacturing facilities and student organization exhibits. Lab tours will focus on Rensselaer manufacturing initiatives throughout campus.

While at Rensselaer, students immersed in advanced manufacturing education also will experience facets of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The foundation for this vision is the recognition that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration—working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions—to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.

Stories About Advanced Manufacturing at Rensselaer

Rensselaer alumni magazine: Fall 2014 -The President’s View: “Manufacturing Leadership

Rensselaer alumni magazine story: “Mastering Manufacturing in the MILL

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.” For more information, please visit  


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit