Building a Better Back-Up

Tech Center Student Designs Forklift Innovation

Tech Center Student Caleb Sible at his workspace

If engineers look at the world and ask, “What could work better?” Caleb Sible would probably say forklift driving.

The pros must agree, since judges in The CAD Academy just awarded him a new laptop as the third-place winner of the Design Something competition for his design of a specialized camera mount just for forklifts. Caleb’s design would allow drivers to see in front of and behind them, a problem he encountered first-hand.

Rendering of Caleb’s forklift camera mount design
Rendering of Caleb’s forklift camera mount design

Caleb, a Kent City senior, drove a forklift while working on his grandfather’s farm. He repeatedly found stacks of crates blocking his view, forcing him to drive “blind” around them. “I just saw a problem that needed something to be done about it.”

Now in his second year in Kent Career Tech Center’s Engineering & Architectural Design Program, he said they are encouraged to bring their ideas to life. So he did, researching specialized cameras online, including the type used in cars for assistance backing up.

From those ideas he designed a shaft for mounting a camera, which would live feed to a monitor on the forklift driver’s console. “A lot of driving is just spatial awareness skills,” Caleb said. “If you’re stacking in a tight space or really high up, doing cold storage or seeing if anyone’s in front of you, it (his design) would make the forklift driver’s job a lot safer, more efficient.”

Because of his Tech Center class, Caleb now can take ideas from paper to the virtual drawing board. For his winning entry, he started drawing on graph paper, then visualized the camera mount down to the tiniest details using computer software called SolidWare.

Students like Caleb have an advantage if they can relate their first classroom projects to experiences they’ve had, instructor Lawrence Ridley said. They begin by reverse engineering objects into their simplest parts, which helps them see “how we design something out of our heads and make it show up in the computer screen.”

Caleb’s current project is to boost the fuel efficiency of his family’s lawn tractor. The tiny carburetor and connected pieces currently consume his desk space. He hopes to take on an old theory about vapor-based fuel systems and find fuel savings. “I’m taking several different ideas and putting a twist on it,” he said.

He said he comes from a long line of tinkerers and inventors on both sides of the family. He said his great-grandfather was instrumental in designing the push-in feature for kitchen stove controls, which prevents them from being bumped “on” accidentally.

This heritage provided a childhood’s worth of opportunities to do tinkering of his own, Caleb said, especially with machinery on his grandpa’s farm. “I like operating things,” he said. “I’ve always loved trucks and tractors, just messing around with things.”

Tech Center engineering student Caleb Sible with instructor Larry Ridley
Tech Center engineering student Caleb Sible with instructor Larry Ridley

He wants to become a mechanical engineer, and just spent spring break in a new job at Ravenna Pattern and Manufacturing. Following in his brother’s footsteps, he plans to work part-time while attending Muskegon Community College, then transfer to Ferris State University to complete his degree.

While his brother works with the machines that make parts, Caleb hopes to design the products themselves. “The way I look at a lot of things is, there’s always a better way to do something. And why aren’t we doing that yet?” he said. “If you think about it, every square inch of something’s been designed.”

CAD Academy is a secondary and post-secondary pre-engineering and pre-architectural software program that helps middle and high school students in the U.S. explore technology-oriented career paths through real-world projects that deepen understanding of science, engineering, architecture and mathematics.

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