HANCOCK - One of the popular attractions of the Quincy Mine Hoist Association is the tour of a section of the Quincy Mine, but there are problems with the method used to transport visitors. An effort by Michigan Technological University engineering students is intended to remedy that situation.
Glenda Bierman, QMHA manger, said currently, visitors are taken into the mine with a diesel-powered John Deere tractor towing a covered metal trailer in which people sit. In the mine, the diesel fumes are very strong, and it's very difficult to turn the rig around to get out of the mine.
"Straight is not bad," she said. "When we want to turn it around, we have to take it in a side drift and make a three-point turn."
Bierman said the QMHA board has been discussing trying to find a better way to transport visitors that is fume free, quiet and can be turned around easily.
"We finally connected with Michigan Tech last fall," she said.
One of the 11 Tech students involved with the project to design a vehicle for the QMHA is Andria Nyenhuis, who said the students took it on as their Senior Capstone Design Program for the past two semesters.
"This is the project we designed," she said.
Nyenhuis said also involved with the project are Dr. Bill Enders, who is the head of the project, and Advisor Kevin Johnson.
Ron Whiton, QMHA board members and chair of the organization's building and grounds committee, said Phil Quenzi is helping out as a design consultant for the board.
Whiton said several designs for a vehicle were considered.
"There were numerous iterations," he said. "We even looked at rail."
Nyenhuis said the Tech design group considered a vehicle similar to what is used now.
"We could have done a single tractor/trailer replacement," he said. "We came up with this design."
The design the group settled on has two cars articulated in the middle. It can be driven from either end, so it doesn't have to turn around to exit the mine.
Bierman said the new vehicle will hold 30 people.
Design group member Aaron Brock said one of the problems the group encountered was finding some off-the-shelf parts for the vehicle.
"Axle dealerships are not willing to do a one-off with students," he said.
Getting proper batteries for the drive motors on each axle was a problem, also, Brock said.
"We had to figure the amount of power needed (for the vehicle) throughout the day," he said. "Both batteries will give us enough power for the whole day."
Nyenhuis said the cars for the vehicle will be custom built locally.
Bierman said the estimated cost of the vehicle is $62,000, which came in higher than hoped for.
"We'd like it to be $40,000," she said.
Whiton said although there is no engineering cost for the vehicle, a fee has been paid to Tech for faculty time.
Bierman said it will be at least a year before the vehicle will be put into use at the mine.
"Our goal is to use it for the 2015 season," she said.
Nyenhuis said the design group enjoyed working on the vehicle project.
"It's giving back to the community we've been a part of for four years," she said.