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Designing and Building the Perfect Pulley System, in One Act


Noah Pittman said one thought came to mind when he and his classmates saw the project.

The Engineering & Architectural Design students at Kent Career Tech Center had been tasked to develop a pulley system that would open and close an enormous curtain, to separate stationary bikes from the basketball court at the Mary Free Bed YMCA.

The group immediately began to brainstorm.

“Your mindset is you’ll do anything to find a solution,” Noah said. “It was definitely a challenge, but it was never something we felt we couldn’t do.”

Cohen Tysse works on the whiteboard in the engineering and architectural design class

It wasn’t the toughest assignment tackled by the class, but there were hitches. For instance, there was the size of the bulky curtain, which weighed nearly 30 pounds and measured 12-by-7-feet. The Tech Center students had to devise a pulley that not only could sustain the weight, but could be easily operated by YMCA staff.

After visiting the site, students sketched out five ideas and chose what they deemed the best one. They decided which parts they needed to buy or could fabricate in class, made a 3-D computer model, and designed a bracket that could be used to support a pulley.

Once it was made, they tested the pulley at the Tech Center, then installed it at the YMCA. That it worked right off the bat was a testament to one trait, said teacher Larry Ridley.

“It wasn’t as much luck as skill,” Ridley said. “Our goal is to be able to work together. They just put our heads together and solved it.”

He added his priorities are to get students to recognize a problem, discuss solutions and then solve it as a group. “If you give them the tools and teach them how to think something through, that’s how we operate,” he said.

Assembling Information is Key

Student Kenny Roesner said one challenge was knowing when they had gathered enough information at the site to return to the Tech Center and complete the work. He said the group has learned they can’t make numerous trips to any job site.

Phillip Kamp said it was tough mounting a small bracket to the curtain and finding the correct nuts and bolts to install the pulley. The trick, he said, was being able to visualize the completed project.

“Once you get the idea of how you want it, a lot of the little things come next,” Phillip said. “What you have to do is foresee everything and then work through the whole process in your head. You have to think about every single step.”

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Kent Career Tech Center’s Engineering & Architectural Design Program

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