Beimborn, Dressel and Reshadi add steam to the Zoo Train Challenge

On May 2, UWM will host the final round of a new, project-based STEM challenge currently underway that has attracted 65 students from six Milwaukee-area high schools. To support students along the way, staff members and students from the College of Engineering & Applied Science are currently volunteering as mentors.

In the competition—spearheaded by LearnDeep Milwaukee and called the Zoo Train Challenge—student teams design a replacement for the 60-year-old wooden water tower that services the Milwaukee County Zoo’s two recreational steam locomotives. The coal-burning trains require 500 gallons of water daily.

“The college’s volunteers are coaching and teaching students about stress and beams,” says Andrew Dressel, lecturer, civil and mechanical engineering, and director of the Bicycle & Motorcycle Engineering Lab. In late January, in UWM’s Structures Lab, the student teams will make and test a variety of their ideas—to see if they can withstand loads—with the help of Dressel and Rahim Reshadi, senior instrumentation specialist.

Other volunteers include undergraduate students Allyson McMurray and Ameralys Correa. UWM’s point person in the Zoo Train Challenge is Chris Beimborn, STEM outreach specialist.

Students began the competition in September with a kick-off event at the zoo. In fall, a Brigg & Stratton concept team walked them through a crash course on design thinking. Next, the Milwaukee School of Engineering hosted a workshop on structural considerations for water towers and reviewed presentations.

Faculty, staff and students are welcome to observe the teams’ final presentations on May 2, 10 a.m. -2 p.m., Student Union, Wisconsin Room. During that time, a review panel will select an approach to move forward.

The competition brings together Milwaukee non-profits (LearnDeep Milwaukee, the Coalition for Sustainable Rail and the Milwaukee County Zoo), industry and five higher education institutions (UWM, MSOE, Marquette University, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Waukesha County Technical College).

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage, Dec. 13, 2018.