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Students ‘Ramp Up’ Production, Delivering in Advance of Derby Day

Myers, Matson-Warner and Mullner (from left) attach the ramp's trigger mechanism Thursday morning.
Myers, Matson-Warner and Mullner (from left) attach the ramp’s trigger mechanism Thursday morning.
Surveying with pride their know-how and craftsmanship, the students are joined by faculty member Troup (second from right).
Surveying with pride their know-how and craftsmanship, the students are joined by faculty member Troup (second from right).
Matson-Warner demonstrates the starting ramp's ease of use, sending two cars on a brief parking-lot jaunt. (The maiden run was coincidentally witnessed by school dean David R. Cotner, who readily expressed his pride in the project results.)
Matson-Warner demonstrates the starting ramp’s ease of use, sending two cars on a brief parking-lot jaunt. (The maiden run was coincidentally witnessed by school dean David R. Cotner, who readily expressed his pride in the project results.)

When competitors in Saturday’s Williamsport Soap Box Derby are launched down Market Street, precision Penn College handiwork will ensure a consistent start in their dash to the finish. Answering a request from event organizers, four students from the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies formulated and built the ramp that will send racers on their speedy descent from Brandon Park to Little League Boulevard. “I supervised and answered questions when they had them,” said Howard W. Troup, maintenance mechanic/millwright, “but this was entirely designed and custom-made by students.” After the college (a derby co-sponsor) was provided with official specifications, which mainly asked that the ramp’s release and reset mechanism be handily operated by a seated volunteer, Troup turned the project over to Matthew J. Horner, of Marion, an automated manufacturing technology major who earned an associate degree in automotive technology last year. Working from Horner’s blueprints and making modifications as appropriate, three others – Robert W. Myers, of Montoursville, a manufacturing engineering technology major; Michael B. Mullner, of Kendall, New Jersey, enrolled in machine tool technology; and John I. Matson-Warner, of South Williamsport, who majors in welding and fabrication engineering technology – fashioned a nearly 7-foot-wide aluminum ramp that is as aesthetic as it is functional. More lightweight and portable than its rigid steel predecessor, the ramp includes bubble levels and scissor jacks on both sides to avoid misalignment and to effect a uniform start in the scores of head-to-head races throughout the day. “And we used bronze bushings, so it should last 100 years,” Troup added. (Two winners in the weekend race, a local tradition revived in 2010, will go on to compete at the national level in Akron, Ohio.) Soap Box Derby officials are picking up the ramp on Friday morning, and, with a commendable nod toward quality control and customer service, the students plan to be at the starting line at 6 a.m. Saturday for installation and to make sure that volunteers understand its operation.

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