With grant, companies can leverage UB engineering student assistance

Students learn facets of the manufacturing industry while contributing their skills to Ttarp Co.

From left, students Jason Trivigno and Ruchit Patel learn facets of the manufacturing industry while contributing their skills to Ttarp Co. Credit: Tracy Puckett.

By Tracy Puckett

Release Date: February 4, 2019

“It’s the best job interview – from both perspectives – that you can possibly have.”
Joe McNamara
president and owner of Ttarp Co. in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sometimes it’s not fiscally prudent for a small or mid-sized company to hire one or more full-time, degreed engineers. At times, the more practical approach is a limited-engagement engineer-in-training.

Enter the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) program. Companies get the temporary technical help they need, with subsidized funding to ease the financial burden. University at Buffalo students get the real-world engineering experience that is so integral to cultivating their future careers.

“Now is the time to seriously consider student assistance for the summer,” says Gary Simon, director of business development at the UB Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE), which is the regional administrator of the SPIR program. “Though students just began the spring semester, they are starting to search for opportunities. In our experience, many of them finalize summer plans as soon as they’re able.”

SPIR is eligible to companies in New York State. A program of the State University of New York, it covers up to 50 percent of the total cost.

TCIE facilitated a record number of student placements in summer 2018. TPi Arcade, an aluminum foundry based in the town of its namesake, was among a number of first-time grant recipients.    

“It went so well that we invited him back for the fall,” says Christopher J. Woods, engineering and quality manager at the company.

The “him” is undergraduate industrial and systems engineering student Derek Roback. He was involved in two projects. One was designing a new layout option to consolidate storage. The other was helping “bring to life” a newly purchased casting simulation software that predicts defects, among other insights.

“Derek learned the software and was able to assist with running simulations on new products and projects, and providing the results to the project managers so we can make a determination whether any changes need to be made,” Woods says.

Such prognostic abilities are especially beneficial to contract manufacturers like TPi Arcade. Since launching the software, Woods says the amount of startup scrap has reduced significantly.

“Prior to the software, we would make changes slowly based on trial and error methods,” he explains.

With SPIR, companies can tap the brains and energy of students from the nine UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences departments. They devote 10 to 12 weeks on project work, committing up to 40 hours per week.

“It’s been wonderful for a small technical business like ours,” says Joe McNamara, president and owner of Ttarp Co. in Buffalo.

Numerous students have worked at the company over the past several years. In fact, McNamara extended the summer 2018 agreements for Ruchit Patel and Jason Trivigno, both undergraduate mechanical and aerospace engineering students, into fall and then spring.

Ttarp recently acquired a small machine company, so Patel translates its hand drawings into computer-aided design versions. Making sense of and adapting the drawings requires a lot of communicating with the Kentucky company owner and Ttarp shop floor personnel. Trivigno concentrates on new product features. The job entails drawing, light design and, in some cases, fabricating.  

“It’s the best job interview – from both perspectives – that you can possibly have,” says McNamara, who has hired a previous student in the past. “If someone’s been working with you for a year, you know whether it’s a fit or not. And the good thing is, they do, too. It takes a vast amount of the risk out of hiring someone.”

To secure a student for a summer engagement, fill out the interest form by March 1.

UB TCIE leverages assets of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) to improve the operations of external business and industry partners, and meet critical and emerging workforce needs. It resolves a wide spectrum of corporate challenges through technical assistance, OpEx/continuous improvement consultation, and professional education. For more information on how TCIE can assist Western New York businesses, visit buffalo.edu/tcie or call 716-645-8800.

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