UNF Process Skid team members pose in front of their senior design project. From left are Greg Kline of Vega Americas; Daniel Fowler, Electrical; Adrian Hoover, Mechanical, Bryce Lovelace, Mechanical; Lake Miller, Electrical; and Haskell’s Christian Beckman.
UNF Process Skid team members pose in front of their senior design project. From left are Greg Kline of Vega Americas; Daniel Fowler, Electrical; Adrian Hoover, Mechanical, Bryce Lovelace, Mechanical; Lake Miller, Electrical; and Haskell’s Christian Beckman.

July 3, 2024

Award-Winning Collaboration Provides Vital Real-World Knowledge

Learn how collaboration between Haskell and UNF students resulted in a cutting-edge process training skid that enhances learning for future engineers.


As part of its Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) approved curriculum, the University of North Florida (UNF), located in Jacksonville, has its mechanical and electrical engineering students create a senior design project.

As part of the fabric of Jacksonville, where it has been headquartered since its founding in 1965, Haskell, a worldwide leader in architectural, engineering and construction solutions, recently lent its expertise to one of the senior projects.

Recently, Haskell’s Christian Beckman, a UNF graduate who is now a Manufacturing Automation Project Associate, and Senior Process Engineer Alicia Bender worked with a team of four UNF engineering students to craft its project, a Process and Automation Training Pump Skid, which is a self-contained unit that houses components and equipment necessary for a specific industrial process or applications.

“Process engineers spend a lot of time in the field,” Beckman said. “Seeing something work in person is much more effective than explaining it with words. So, when developing the curriculum for UNF, we thought to design a skid similar to something that we do out in the field.”

The skid includes components to train process engineers on pump principles, including flooded suction, suction lift and priming, cavitation, deadheading/no flow, water hammer, effects of elevation/liquid level/friction, the purpose of check valves and effects of different valve types.

It can also be used to teach process automation engineers the basics of programmable logic controller (PLC) programming, such as PLC hardware configurations, emergency stops versus process stops for variable frequency drives (VFD), and proportional-integral-derivative (PID) loop tuning.

“If you get to see this stuff and learn it firsthand, the learning curve becomes much shorter. For some process engineers, it could be a whole year before you go on-site and see this first-hand,” Beckman said. “Having the skid during the training process will expedite their knowledge. The students at UNF are three or four steps ahead of another entry-level person.”

The team comprised two mechanical and two electrical engineers. Bender volunteered to ensure the skid baked in necessary lessons for process engineers, while Beckman worked on the automation side with the electrical engineers.

“We had weekly meetings to help them design, but they did most of the building,” Bender said. “This was my first time working with UNF students, and it was a really great experience. It was good to get back into the mindset of entry-level knowledge and get a refresher.”

The skid is a miniature version of different real-world plant functions, including unnecessarily complicated piping systems, solenoids that simulate a water hammer and touchscreen displays for automation programming. The skid is intentionally set up with various ‘non-ideal’ situations to help those using it learn different calculations and processes.

“There are a lot of lessons learned in this because all the situations are things that process and automation engineers could see out in the field,” Beckman said. “The UNF professors remarked that, ‘This is not just kind of industry exposure. This is a real-world industry project that these students completed.’”

After completing the design course, the team won UNF’s Best Production Project of the Year award.

The skid will now facilitate training exercises for Haskell engineers. Built with contributions from Vega Americas, TriNova Inc., Hegwood Automation and Controls and Haskell, it will help engineers understand the inner workings of ordering parts, mass flow balance calculations, programming a human-machine interface (HMI) and wiring.

“We have a need in Jacksonville for a way to train entry-level engineers,” Beckman said. “Our counterparts in Beloit (Wisconsin)and our packaging group in Atlanta have in-house labs to train their electrical and mechanical engineers. The Jacksonville Process and Automation group does not.

“For years, we have discussed how to make this happen, but the training skids available on the market can easily cost $100,000. We saw this as an opportunity to create a custom training skid and automation panel while also providing the university class a senior design project.”

Haskell is hiring! Explore the many options available to join a growing company committed to educating and developing team members, enabling them to have the BEST job of their lives.

Haskell delivers $2± billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,200 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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