As football fans fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium once again for the new football season, there’s one thing no one would want to encounter – a broken seat.
The University Athletic Association has partnered with the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to replace and manufacture new seat brackets for some of the seats in The Swamp.
The seats, which were installed in 1991, have parts that are now considered obsolete and led the UAA to look toward the student engineers to tackle the project.
“It was a classic case where our students were really able to come out and take the part and basically design a new one,” said David Hahn, chairman of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “A new version of it that has the same functionality and can just fit into what was already there.”
Back in spring, the UAA reached out to the student engineers, and around 11 seats will be the first to be installed by the college on Friday.
The seat parts that have deteriorated, mostly due to corrosion, will be fixed first. Brian Barton, the director of facilities for the UAA, believes the new parts will be efficient for the facility.
“Until we get to a point where we need to redo the seating, then I think this can be an ongoing partnership,” Barton said. “We’re hopeful we’ve done enough for a couple of years at least now with the inventory they produced for us this summer.
The UAA contacted the college to create 100 parts to start the project and the college may be asked to make more as old parts break.
One of Hahn’s graduate students, Aaron Wall, is the lead engineer on the project and has worked extra hours in order for the UAA to have the parts they need in a timely fashion.
Wall has worked around his schedule in a manufacturing lab and on weekends to get the job done.
“It was a classic example of engineering,” Hahn said. “[Wall is] the prototypical engineer. This was the perfect example for a student like Aaron to implement engineering. To realize a real product and deliver it to a customer, the athletic association.”
Although the UAA estimated the project to cost about $20,000, working with the college was beneficial in keeping resources within the university.
By being able to reverse engineer the original parts, improve its design and manufacture in local laboratories, the College of Engineering will have fans worrying less about their seat while watching the game.
“As department chair, I thought this was an amazing opportunity to show what our engineers were capable of doing, and I had total confidence that they would make this happen and they did.”