Undergraduates put learning to the test

Author: Linda Thomas Terhune
Ryan Marshall (BSIE ’09) knows trucks. As an undergraduate, he interned for two summers at Pierce Manufacturing, the world’s leading fire truck producer.

Ryan MarshallAs luck would have it, his senior design project brought him back to trucks—this time focusing on workspace design and analysis for trucks used by those who mark utility lines.

Marshall and classmates Robyn DeYoung, Michael McCrady and Pourmehr Sarram were charged with finding a cost-effective and efficient way to organize gear in the back of trucks used by the United States Infrastructure Co., which marks utility lines. Employees travel from site to site, often visiting up to five locations in a day. At each stop they must access spray cans and other gear out of the backs of their trucks. The challenge for the design team was to come up with a way to keep all the gear in order.

Marshall says the project, which was overseen by Professor Mark Lehto, made use of engineering economics, cost management, and ergonomic concepts. In July, he entered the full-time workforce when he began work as a project manager in Wisconsin for Epic Systems, which installs its own software into hospitals and clinics.

Hoping to lead his own company some day—whether it has to do with trucks remains to be seen—Marshall reflects on his emergence into the working world.

“The ability to think outside the box and try new things is necessary to solve some of society’s challenges,” he says. “In our engineering education, the solution to problems was not necessarily obvious. Creative thinking and, at times, working in teams was necessary to solve complex problems much like problems that face our society today. These skills learned in engineering will help us make a difference in the world.”