Mechanical engineering students take second place in national manufacturing contest

July 24, 2013

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A team of University of Wisconsin-Platteville students in the spring Manufacturing Processes class fared well at a national competition. The project on “Hand Operated Mixing Cup” authored by the quartet of Sean Pietri, a senior from Reedsburg, Wis.; Chad Steger, a senior from Theresa, Wis.; Stephen VandeZande, a senior from Fond du Lac, Wis. and Riley Zehner, a senior from Stoughton, Wis., won the second place award in the 2013 Direct Digital Manufacturing annual competition, which was sponsored by the Rapid Technologies and Additive Manufacturing Community and Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Students were asked to go beyond “just making parts” to utilize additive manufacturing for the creation of a machine. The product would comprise a functional mechanism or assembly with moving parts that would be impossible to make using traditional processes. The geometry of the design was to be defined within a three-dimensional, computer-aided design system capable of producing robust STL files necessary for direct digital manufacturing. Dr. John Obielodan, who taught the class, gave the student groups the freedom to initiate project topics of their choice following the guidelines specified in the national competition problem statement.

“I am very appreciative of the chance to take an idea and then turn it into a reality,” said Zehner. “Being given freedom to explore endless ideas within the given parameters of the competition was very enjoyable and allowed each team to be able to be as innovative as possible. The competition was an excellent learning experience and I am so thankful for the award that we received.”

The students, under the advise of Obielodan, applied the fundamental principles of additive manufacturing taught in the class to select materials, processes and process-specific product features in the class projects. Two top projects were submitted from the eight groups in the class with one winning the second place award in the national competition.

“It was a great experience and process to be involved in, and I have to thank my team,” said Steger. “With the combination of all our ideas we were able to come up with a great design for our hand power mixing cup. I would also give a lot of credit to Dr. Obielodan. All of his experience, guidance and knowledge were of great value in the production of our product.”

The award was announced at the SME's annual RAPID Conference and Exposition in June in Pittsburgh, Penn.

“We were all excited to participate in the competition,” said Pietri. “It gave us an opportunity to put the textbooks away and put our skills and experience to the test for a new, unique kind of problem. Furthermore, fact that we were able to utilize Direct Digital Manufacturing techniques really allowed us to push the envelope of creativity by designing complex shapes and systems that normally wouldn't be possible with traditional manufacturing.” 

A certificate of achievement was issued and a complementary one-year student membership was given to the students. In addition, the students’ project will be fabricated using a selective laser sintering process specified in their entry and sent to them.

The entry submitted by students from university of Massachusetts Lowell, won the first place award.

The DDM Competition is held annually and is open to all universities in the United States.

Contact: Dr. John Obielodan, assistant professor, mechanical engineering department,,

Formatted by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,


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