UMBC engineering students solve local brewery’s production challenges

Faced with production line problems costing potentially thousands of dollars each week, a local brewery turned to a fresh source of technical knowledge from outside the industry: UMBC engineering students.

As part of a capstone project, about 30 UMBC students, led by Neil Rothman, professor of practice of mechanical engineering, worked to address five issues identified by Jailbreak Brewing Company. The largest concern was a halt in production that would happen once an hour when a can would fall off the track. In addition to losing valuable production time, the company would need to throw away beer exposed to too much oxygen during the delay.

Throughout the semester, students wrote proposals to address each identified problem, observed the production line and distribution processes to assess the issues, and determined budgets and timelines to implement solutions. In addition to solving the canning problem, the students developed a new system to let customers know in real time how much of a certain kind of beer is available in the taproom.

Working with UMBC students was rewarding, Kasey Turner, co-founder and COO of Jailbreak Brewing Company, told The Baltimore Sun, in an interview about the collaboration. “They dedicated real time, effort and expertise to these problems,” he said, adding, “The results speak for themselves, that they were able to solve these really hard problems in a very short period of time with a limited budget.”

Tackling real engineering challenges with real clients, while also being supported by faculty, is essential to the capstone course, explains Rothman. “It’s not just me teaching [the students] the process, but working with the clients and real issues that come along,” he noted. The complexity and even the messiness of that process is what Rothman wants his students to experience, to make them as fully prepared as possible for engineering careers.

Read the full article “Jailbreak Brewing Company collaborates with UMBC students to solve brewery issues” in The Baltimore Sun.

Image: UMBC students presenting during the mechanical engineering capstone poster session. Photo courtesy of Neil Rothman.