As Andy Liebner coaches a Mexican cross-country skier at the 2018 Winter Olympics, he will likely be using poles that Lake Superior State University’s Product Development Center had a hand in developing. Liebner custom manufactures graphite composite ski poles out of a company he owns – United States Ski Pole Company – in Cheboygan, Mich.
Through Sault Sainte Marie’s Smartzone (SSMart), Liebner hired the PDC in 2014-15 to redesign and rebuild a machine used in the wrapping process of the ultralight carbon fiber poles. Two engineering students, Tim VerStrate and Phil Coullard, worked the rebuild on top of still another client-driven senior project required for graduation. That venture designed, built, and automated a prototype CNC milling machine for Redwing, Minn.-based Mactech, Inc.
VerStrate, originally from Escanaba, Mich., is a 2015 graduate in mechanical engineering-vehicle systems concentration with an electrical engineering minor. He works for VanAire, Inc., a leading source of high-pressure gas valves and actuators for North America, located in Gladstone, Mich.
Phillip Coullard, from Pickford, Mich., graduated in electrical engineering with a digital systems emphasis in 2017. He works for Cloverland Electric, Dafter, Mich., a cooperative that provides service to Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.