Honeywell Aerospace prepares ASU engineering students for Industry 4.0

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Engineering students at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, participate in a culture of experiential learning at the Polytechnic campus — one that isn’t confined to the pages of a textbook or instruction in the classroom. These opportunities are actively encouraged by industry leaders committed to supporting the next generation of engineers.

One of The Polytechnic School’s most active industry partners is Honeywell Aerospace, a global leader in the aviation industry with a strong commitment to operational efficiency, safety and innovation. Since 2014, Honeywell has backed student capstone projects, facilities, research and curriculum at The Polytechnic School, enriching the education of thousands of students.

The relationship has grown through the years. What began as capstone sponsorships that benefitted a handful of students has evolved into a synergistic relationship that will impact the future of manufacturing in Arizona and advance Industry 4.0.

“When a global leader in technology and manufacturing is committed to our students’ academic journeys the way Honeywell Aerospace is, the impact is great,” said Tim Beatty, Fulton Schools business development director .

A capstone program committed to preparing students for industry

The industry capstone experience is a hallmark of the engineering program at The Polytechnic School. Beatty has led recruitment for school’s eProject capstone program since 2018. Along with the engineering faculty, he has recruited more than 200 industry and government agency sponsors. Beatty and the engineering faculty believe that the cross-collaboration of students, faculty and industry mentors is key to finding solutions and creates opportunities for innovative approaches to real-world engineering problem-solving.

Honeywell Aerospace sponsors eight to 12 capstone projects annually, giving students the opportunity to generate tangible engineering and manufacturing solutions for the company. Honeywell Aerospace offers immersive experiences for students to develop their projects, allowing them to learn and work in Honeywell facilities using the company’s equipment while receiving mentorship from Honeywell’s professionals. This also serves as a cost-effective and efficient talent recruitment tool for new graduate hires. Beatty says it gives the industry sponsors of capstone projects the ultimate nine-month interview of prospective future employees.

“The merging of capstone projects with industry is extremely beneficial for our students,” said Darryl Morrell, associate professor of engineering at The Polytechnic School. “In addition to bringing material covered in the curriculum to life, it stretches students to become strategic learners who, with the support of involved mentors from the industry partners, go way beyond the boundaries of the engineering curriculum.”

Currently, in a capstone project titled “Modeling the Factory of the Future,” four fourth-year students are developing a digital twin, or a computerized duplicate, of an existing Honeywell T55 helicopter engine assembly line at the company’s Phoenix Repair and Overhaul facility. Their goal is to identify key areas of needed improvement to the engine line assembly ergonomics and overall cycle time. The group is using Honeywell resources and Siemens software to create the digital twin using Industry 4.0 practices.

Jason Floor, a Honeywell engineer and adjunct engineering professor in The Polytechnic School, oversees a variety of Honeywell Aerospace manufacturing engineering capstone projects each semester.

Floor says that the improvements and ideas generated by this capstone team will be reviewed, tested and implemented into Honeywell operations. It will also serve as a pilot study for digital twin applications throughout Honeywell’s manufacturing sites worldwide.

“After the project ends, the digital twin will continue to be a valuable resource for Honeywell engineers to analyze changes and test improvements to the line digitally, before making any changes in the physical world,” Floor said.

Floor believes that early exposure to industry experiences gives students a competitive edge when they enter the field. He also graduated from ASU with a degree in manufacturing engineering from The Polytechnic School and serves as a liaison for capstone projects at Honeywell, giving him firsthand experience with the curriculum and how it’s setting students up for success.

“We’ve noticed that The Polytechnic School engineering grads have a well-rounded skill set. They have outstanding problem-solving and communications skills and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Floor said. “This is what sets ASU Polytechnic engineers apart from their competition.”

Jonathan Hobgood, the vice president of advanced manufacturing and automation for Honeywell, manages capstone project mentors and sees high potential from ASU engineering graduates.

“We hire about 70% to 80% of the students who work with us for either a capstone or internship,” Hobgood said.

The future of the capstone program includes plans to involve engineering students of all levels to take part in industry projects.

“Shaping students for the future of manufacturing shouldn’t start during the senior year,” Beatty said. “The more students who learn manufacturing skills in this hybrid curriculum, the better our industry will fare in the long run.”

The Innovation Hub’s role in a growing manufacturing sector

Students working on the “Modeling the Factory of the Future” capstone project brainstorm, tinker, conceptualize, design and build at the Innovation Hub located on the Polytechnic campus, where hands-on learning is part of the academic culture.

With a rapidly growing manufacturing sector, the hub is poised to provide students with this skill set. The hub houses $2 million in plastic, polymer and metal 3D-printing equipment in a 15,000-square-foot space — the largest additive manufacturing research facility in the Southwest.

The hub launched in 2017 with the support of Honeywell and various other industry collaborators. Honeywell’s support enabled the acquisition of two laser-based metal 3D printers. More than 200 students have taken courses that leverage these metal printers, which have also supported more than $1 million in externally funded projects from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA, as well as local industry, including Honeywell.

Associate Professor Dhruv Bhate teaches several of these courses and supervises projects that benefit from the capabilities of metal 3D printing.

“The availability of commercial metal 3D printers at ASU has given our students and faculty the opportunity to learn from and contribute to this critical manufacturing technology,” Bhate said.

Preparing for the manufacturing boom

Many organizations throughout Phoenix have a large role in addressing the talent demand that stems from the AZNext program and will extend to efforts related to the New Economy Initiative. ASU and Honeywell are addressing a common goal of equipping the next generation of manufacturing students.

MORE: How ASU is helping bring new high-wage jobs to Arizona and increase the state's economic output through the New Economy Initiative

The Fulton Schools’ recent launch of the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks on the Polytechnic campus is designed to offer a curriculum that supports next-generation engineering challenges. The school’s students are at the precipice of an evolving industry, one that is more automated and efficient.

Floor shares this outlook and believes the curriculum dovetails with everything the industry is anticipating in terms of software automation, digitization and automation of production processes.

“The parallels could not be more aligned,” he said.

Doug Bingham is the senior director of advanced manufacturing technology at Honeywell Aerospace and manages strategic partnerships. He has witnessed the growth of ASU and Honeywell’s relationship through the years and sees these various and valuable collaborations as part of one overall purpose: an investment in the company’s talent pipeline.

“When students join Honeywell, we want to give them the tools they need to make an immediate impact, and this is where I see us, together with ASU, unlocking value,” Bingham said. “I have a personal intrinsic belief that there’s something greater here than just recruitment and hiring. If a curriculum supports all of the disciplines needed for the projected manufacturing landscape, very powerful opportunities can be created.”

Sona Patel Srinarayana
sjpatel2@asu.edu