Iowa Board of Regents

Student-engineers solve industry problems and deliver value

Four people sitting around a table with laptops.

To get a vintage trolley to stop, an operator grabs the handle of part SA-26, an independent brake valve, and pushes to the right. Compressed air runs through the system and forces brake shoes against the wheels to slow and stop the trolley.

To get going again, the operator, no doubt dressed in throwback hat and uniform, releases the brakes with a pull to the left and a rush of vented air.

That brake valve is an essential part if you want to restore a trolley or build an authentic replica. But what do you do if you’re the Gomaco Trolley Co. in Ida Grove, Iowa, and that valve is no longer on the market?

If you’re Lex Jacobson, a 1998 Iowa State mechanical engineering graduate and the manager of the trolley company, you contact Iowa State’s capstone course in mechanical engineering. That gets two teams of senior student-engineers doing some reverse-engineering.

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