Made at UW-Stout has collaborated with the plastics engineering program to produce customized door pullers for first-year students as part of the fall 2020 welcome to campus kit.
Engineering technology student Jake Thomas designed the door puller and created the prototype. Plastics engineering student Deven McCarty is supervising the production with assistance from plastics Professor Adam Kramschuster and manufacturing engineering instructor Paul Craig. The mold for the door puller was made by Craig in Stout's Fryklund Hall machine shop.
Kramschuster has arranged for donated materials to produce the door pullers. NatureWorks, a world-leading biopolymers supplier and innovator, has donated 1,400 lbs of Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) performance material.
The RTP Company has donated colorant and laser etching additive for the door puller's unique Made at UW-Stout branding. Both companies have representatives serving on B.S. Plastics Engineering Advisory Committee working to ensure the program continues to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to work in the plastics industry.
Experience as Admissions tour guide influenced design
As a senior majoring in engineering technology, Thomas is always looking for inventive ways to solve problems and help others.
"My dad had asked me if I could make something similar to an expensive door puller he found online," Thomas said. "He works as a technology specialist for a Minnesota school district and needed something to open heavy doors at work during the coronavirus pandemic."
Thomas' original design for his dad was a thick, heavy duty model with a button pusher on the end. He was inspired by his work as an Admissions tour guide to further develop the device. After limited on-campus tours started again, Thomas modified the original design to make it easier to carry and use during a tour.
"As a tour guide here on campus, things have become a lot more complex and interesting with the COVID-19 pandemic," Thomas said. "So I thought with the door puller it would help alleviate us having to touch door handles during a tour."
Thomas downsized the original design and printed a few dozen on his 3D printer at home. Admissions staff were thrilled to get them for use during tours.
His design ultimately caught the attention of Chancellor Katherine P. Frank, who thought it was a perfect example of how UW-Stout encourages students to always be innovating, even during a challenging time such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
UW-Stout leadership connected Thomas with the Made at UW-Stout initiative and faculty, who provided further expertise.
Along with being included as part of the fall 2020 welcome to campus kit, the door pullers are being provided to staff and faculty upon request.