Gus Bronk designed and machined his own keyboard at WSU Mechanical Engineering Lab, won post-secondary education competition
Gus Bronk, a major in mechanical engineering, won an international competition in September to design and manufacture his own computer keyboard.
The keyboard designed and manufactured by Bronk is made of several materials, including aluminum, carbon fiber and tantalum. The process of designing and building the keyboard was particularly difficult due to the mills available to cut out the parts, Bronk said.
The two shredders in the Cougar workshop of the Engineering Education and Research Laboratory move material only on the X, Y, and Z axes. Larger factories can rotate material and move it in other ways. Bronk said he had to figure out how to work around the limitations of the machines due to the tilted shape and size of the keyboard.
Bronk said he decided to make a keyboard because he’s a nerd. He wanted a new keyboard and started the project with a simple design in mind, then abandoned it later.
âFirst I started making it easy to machine, and then I was like ‘you know, this sucks. Let’s try to do something a little cooler, which ended up being more difficult to machine, âhe said.
After all of the keyboard pieces were milled, Bronk said he had to send it to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to be anodized before engraving the keys. Anodizing is a process that prevents aluminum and other materials from oxidizing, said Robert “Kurt” Hutchinson, director of the WSU Mechanical Engineering Lab.
Engraving the 109 keys with all the appropriate letters, numbers and words was also time consuming and difficult due to their shape, he said. Bronk wrote all the coding for the keyboard and the engraving.
“And it’s not something that a student – with the experience that our students have – tackles something so complicated, so I was about to let him try,” Hutchinson said. .
Bronk said he finished burning the keyboard shortly before the deadline to send it in June. He received the notification that he won the competition in September. He said the first thing he did was tell Hutchinson and then his parents.
The Mastercam Wildest Parts Competition is a machining competition for students and professional engineers to design and build something unique, according to the Mastercam website. Bronk competed in the post-secondary education division, which includes colleges, universities and trade schools.
Mastercam sponsors the Wildest Parts competition every year. The 2020 competition has been canceled due to the pandemic. When the 2021 competition took place, Hutchinson said he encouraged Bronk to finish the keyboard, which he started before the pandemic.
Mastercam is a company that creates software that is used to make machines, Hutchinson said. ETRL’s shredders run on Mastercam software.
Bronk and Jack Spieker, mechanical engineering graduates from WSU, have worked as technical assistants for Hutchinson in previous semesters, Hutchinson said. This semester he has no TA, so Spieker and Bronk stepped in to help him as they both have experience with machines.
“[Bronk is] one of those guys that almost everyone loves because he’ll go out of his way to help people without them asking or saying anything, âHutchinson said.
Bronk engraved the Mastercam logo, as well as a thank you message to his family, Hutchinson, Spieker and the Stadium Way fast food workers on the back of the keyboard. Bronk said he also included his own personal logo, which looks like a wizard’s hat.
Bronk won a cash prize, as well as a license for the Mastercam software, he said. Normally, a license for the software he used to make the keyboard costs around $ 40,000.
Bronk said he developed an interest in engineering through his father, who is also a mechanical engineer. His father gave him a model rocket for his first birthday.
Bronk said he first considered a career in electrical engineering and then took the mechanical engineering route after working in a high school machine shop.
Over the summer, Bronk interned for the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery as an Equipment Reliability Engineer. He worked in a team that fixed issues in the refinery when it went down and came up with solutions to make things run more efficiently, he said.
Phillips 66 has offered Bronk the job again for next summer, he said.
Bronk also works as a senior engineer for the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers at the WSU. club, he said. The club builds a racing car every year and submits it to a design competition. Bronk’s job as chief engineer puts him in charge of technical direction and ensures that all teams on the project have strong leadership, he said.
The keyboard he designed will be exhibited with the International Trade Fair for Manufacturing Technologies in Chicago, Hutchinson said. The keyboard will also travel in different exhibitions. It will be about a year before he gets to Bronk.
When he gets it back, Bronk said he plans to use it. The keyboard is fully wired and functional and will replace the one it currently has.
Hutchinson said Bronk’s recognition has a positive influence on young mechanical engineering students.
âIt really inspires them to work hard to try things that they maybe didn’t think they could,â he said.