School spotlight: Apprenticeship provides taste of product engineering

Pamela Cotant:

In between summertime activities, recent Oregon High School graduate Erik VanderSanden is focusing on winter as he helps redesign a device that makes cross country skiing accessible to the disabled.
VanderSanden spent his senior year assisting in the design and redesign of parts and items for Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing of Madison through the Dane County Youth Apprenticeship Program.
In Dane County, nearly 130 students have participated this school year and into the summer, said Diane Kraus, school to career coordinator for the Dane County consortium of 16 school districts. The county program offers 11 program areas and the most popular right now are health care, information technology, automotive and biotechnology, said Kraus, adding that her program is always looking for more businesses that want to participate.
One of the items VanderSanden worked on for his apprenticeship is a device that allows people to sit while skiing. VanderSanden is now being retained as needed to finish up a prototype, which will be used by Isthmus to manufacture 100 more. The unit was originally designed by UW-Madison mechanical engineering students under professor Jay Martin through the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology, which is also known as UW-CREATe.
“I tried to optimize what they had already done … and take it a step further than what they had time for in their class,” said VanderSanden said.