Cutting Edge Chapter 1 – Meet the Team


Copyright 2012 – Kenneth Richard Hardman

Chapter 1 – Meet the Team

“Dad, where does gasoline come from?” Aaron said as father and son knelt on the ground filling Aaron’s new P-51D Micro Mustang model airplane with fuel.

“Well, they make it from oil that comes from deep in the earth.”

Aaron looked at the ground, then scooped up a little dirt between his thumb and index finger. “How far?”

“Oh, I’d say this much fuel should make the Mustang fly for about ten minutes depending on…”

“No, I mean, how far down in the earth is the oil?” Aaron rubbed his fingers back and forth as the dirt fell back to the earth.

Oh, a few miles I suppose, like from here to Walmart, except straight down.”

Looking down the fuel tube, Aaron carefully replaced the cap while his dad held the plane. That’s a really deep hole. He thought to himself. “But, how do they get to it, and get it out of the ground?”

“They drill a hole and use pumps.” Aaron’s father smiled, looked his son in the eye, and wiped a few drips from around the engine.

“How do they drill a hole that deep? My earth science teacher told us about the different layers of rock as you go down.”

“Well, they use something harder than rock, like diamonds on a big drill bit that turns while it’s forced down, you know, like my drill press back at the house, in the corner of the garage, only bigger.”

Aaron raised one eye brow.

Aaron’s father carefully put the plane on the ground, drew a circle in the dirt about six inches in diameter, then poked little holes inside the circle with his index finger. “And they put diamonds all around the drill bit, like this.”

Aaron heard a loud horn honk, bringing him back from daydreaming about his father when he was thirteen. The traffic light in front of him was green so he stepped on the gas. Now, as a senior in college and Capstone senior project leader, Aaron and his team mates were on their way to help a company improve their process for making synthetic diamonds for drilling. I can’t believe they asked me to lead this team. I can’t tell people what to do. I’d rather just be a member of the team, ask lots of questions, get my assignments done, and get a good grade.

“Did everyone remember their notebooks,” Aaron said, driving the blue university van with a number 9 on the back.

Each answered yes.

“Guys, I’m a little nervous.” Kate said.

Me too. Aaron thought.

Kate, a manufacturing engineer, lifted her hand from the left armrest leaving finger impressions as she pulled her long dark hair from in front of her face revealing her bright, but cautious smile. “I mean, I feel ready after all those classes on automation, lean-plus, and business, but this is really my first chance to apply it. What if I…”

“I can’t wait.” Bryce, a mechanical engineer sat just behind Kate leaning inboard anxiously looking past her through the windshield. “I’ve been working as an intern the last two summers following other engineers around and designing small parts. With this project we’ll get to design a whole machine from the ground up.”

I’m sure Kate will relax once we find out what we’re doing. I’m glad Bryce has experience working in industry.

Aaron looked at Bryce through the rear view mirror making note of his short, sandy blonde hair, sporting a little curl in the front.

Aaron, Kate, and Bryce, along with one other team member, Ray competed for this project on the first week of school. They got the good news yesterday. All in their fourth year of college, they now had the opportunity to apply their skills to a real project, for a real company.

“Remember Kate,” Ray leaned forward against his seat belt from the other back seat, “When we wrote our proposal, you were the one who talked us in to bidding for this project.”

Kate took a deep breath and raised and lowered her shoulders.

“You liked it,” Ray continued, “because it includes automation and probably some software.”

Ray is going to be our team cheerleader.

“We can do it,” Ray added. “I know we can.” Ray reached forward, and tapped Kate on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine.”

Now Aaron could see Ray in the mirror, pleasing smile, brown hair, long sideburns.

“Our objective on this first visit,” Aaron continued, “is to learn the existing company process and figure out all their needs for this new machine.  We are meeting with a guy named,…” Aaron gripped the steering wheel with his left hand and reached in his shirt pocket with his right and pulled out a torn slip of paper.  “A guy named, Matt Clawson. Be thinking about your individual expertise and be ready to ask lots of questions from your perspective.”

Just a mile away from their destination, Aaron could still see in his mind the six inch circle his father drew in the dirt years ago.

“But who would use real diamonds to dig a hole?” Aaron had asked. “Aren’t they valuable and expensive and hard to find?”

“They makediamonds to do it.” Aaron’s father said.

“No Way!” Aaron had exclaimed. “I remember my teacher telling us that diamonds form over millions of years deep in the ground with the weight of the earth pushing down on them. The reason we find them is because volcanos bring them to the surface.”

“Well, someone has figured out how to do it faster, simulating the environment with very high pressure and heat.”

Aaron and his father took the P51-D to the large field behind their home, checked all the flaps and settings, then Aaron held the plane while his father flipped the propeller three times. It started. Aaron remembered the very loud buzzing sound.

“What do they make the diamonds out of?” Aaron yelled.

Amidst the high pitched motor noise, Aaron heard his father call back, “I think that would be a good question for your science teacher.”

I don’t think he knew the answer, but he sure encouraged me to find out.

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One Response to Cutting Edge Chapter 1 – Meet the Team

  1. Pingback: Cutting Edge – Table of Contents | Engineering Stories

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