SZE conference builds a strong connection between students and companies

Get together with students from different universities, put them in mixed teams, solve a problem given by an industrial company in three days and present it to a jury of academics - that's what the International Student Conference on Mechanical Engineering is all about. However, the event is much more than just a competition: it connects companies from the Western Transdanubian region with students, gives insight into real projects and forges a real community. The student-initiated conference, held for the fifteenth time this year, is set to reach a new milestone next year, with the addition of electrical engineering and IT to the range of participants, in line with current industry challenges.

"Too bad we didn't think of it”, said Dr. László Kamondi, Professor Emeritus at the University of Miskolc, the conference's permanent invited guest, on the occasion of the International Student Conference on Mechanical Engineering. The event could hardly have received higher praise than this.

Recognition is for the idea: in 2006, the then mechanical engineering students of Széchenyi István University dreamed up an event whose concept has not only stood the test of time, but is becoming increasingly relevant in the 21st century: it is essentially a hands-on training within the framework of an engineering student competition, where the companies that provide the tasks can benefit from useful solutions and, more importantly, talented students. "I think it is very positive that the event does not pit institutions against each other, but that students have to work in mixed teams.”, emphasized Dr. László Kamondi at the informal panel discussion preceding the conference at the Bridge Students' and Teachers' Club of Széchenyi University. "The event is an excellent opportunity to get to know each other and to communicate with companies. Our biggest challenge has always been to bring the aspirations of industry and the opportunities offered by the university closer together. This conference does exactly that.", added the lecturer, who has been an enthusiastic participant since the beginning.

Participants of the panel discussion: János Kun, Dr. Dániel Pup, Dr. László Kamondi, Ádám Horváth, Balázs Nagy (Photo: Márton Horváth)

In the discussion, Dr. Dániel Pup, the founding organizer of the conference and the professional coordinator of the Automotive Industry Research Centre of Széchenyi István University, recalled the beginnings of the conference. "We were curious to see what education was like at other universities, what traditions existed there. We were looking for ways to put together an event where we could meet mechanical engineering students from other institutions.", he recalledAs he said, the biggest problem was securing the funding. The inspiration for the right concept came from a student grant opportunity advertised by a company at the university, where the task was to design a concept. There seemed to be a huge demand from businesses to involve students in their current projects, so we realised, this is what the conference should be built on.

For companies, the conference is really a job interview lasting over several days, where they can get to know the skills of the students. Many of them will even find a job in a company after the event (Photo: Márton Horváth)

This year, eight companies from the West-Transdanubian region joined the event as task sponsors:

ABB Ltd., Adient Mezőlak Ltd., Dana Hungary Ltd., Jankovits Engineering Ltd., Rába Járműipari Holding Plc., Schaeffler Savaria Ltd., SMR Hungary L.p. and Zalazone Ipari Park Plc. KNISS Ltd. also supported the event. Some of the companies came with two tasks, making a total of twelve teams from the eighty-eight participating students. Besides the host Széchenyi István University, students arrived from the University of Óbuda, the University of Miskolc, the Neumann János University of Kecskemét, the University of Pécs, the University of Debrecen, as well as from the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and the Subotica Technical College of Applied Sciences. The event was supported by the Automotive Industry Research Centre of Széchenyi István University and the PRACTING Foundation of the University.

Almost half of the participating students came from the host Széchenyi István University (Photo: Márton Horváth)

"Eight of us came from Subotica to represent our school at the conference", replied Máté Pozder from Magyarkanizsa, who said that everyone in the team from the southern border region was motivated by different reasons for coming: some by the experience of the trip, some by networking, and some by the opportunity to develop. He was personally convinced by the car meeting on Sunday that he should be there in Győr. "When we went to the Dana plant to see the machines, my Serbian language skills came to the fore. Many of the people on the production line are Serbian, so they were very happy to be addressed in their mother tongue.", the students from the southern border regions recalled the impressive moments of the factory visit.  He added that they were also impressed by the beauty of the city and the university campus. He said that some of them had mentioned in the group that they would liket o continue their studies or careers in Győr.

Máté Pozder arrived from the Subotica Technical College together with his colleagues (Photo: Márton Horváth)

The tasks have been set by the companies to provide students with a challenge, yet remain achievable. There were some where the students had to design a completely new product and others where they had to automate an existing process. An example of the former is ABB Ltd, which has set the task of designing an automated robotic cell that can be used in demonstrations and training sessions, and which can pour the user's chosen drink into a 3D printed cup. SMR Hungary Bt. asked the students to create a truly futuristic innovation by replacing the rear-view mirror of a truck with a camera system. Jankovits Engineering Ltd., on the other hand, focused the problem on replacing the operator: the goal was to have a machine separate the glued laths in a woodworking plant and transport them to a conveyor belt - replacing human labour.

The majority of the representatives of the companies that gave the assignment are alumni of Széchenyi István University, and there are many who have also participated in the organisation of the conference and this time returned to the event in a new capacity. Ákos Nógrádi, sales engineer at ABB Ltd. "We were approached by a partner for this project, which is currently in preparation. We wanted to hear what the students had to say and, to our great satisfaction, they came up with a similar solution to the one we had developed. In many ways we can incorporate the ideas of young people into our work.", Lajos Babics Technical Director of Jankovits Engineering Ltd. expressed his satisfaction, who particularly liked the fact that the engineering candidates simulated the slats in the library with books, which shows a simple but practical way of thinking.

As the above shows, the teams of students from different courses and different year groups successfully overcame the obstacles and produced a high quality product after three days of intensive work. This was also confirmed by the evaluations of the company representatives, who commented positively on the projects produced.

The students were busy working on their assignments in the lounges of the student halls, sometimes until dawn (Photo: Márton Horváth)

At the closing event, Dr. habil. István Lakatos, Head of the Department of Road and Rail Vehicles, presented the evaluation criteria on behalf of the jury.

"It was difficult to make a decision, we often had to compare an apple with a pear, so we looked at the entries from different angles. The first step was always the idea, which is very important. Some teams reported that it took a day to come up with the idea. Then came the engineering design part of the task. We were particularly pleased to see budget figures, as every product has a payback period and this is as important as the technical quality of the design. Finally, we also assessed how the teams were able to sell themselves. As they say, also good wine needs marketing, which this time meant the presentations and how they were delivered.", he explained.

The results were as above: in the technical development section, the Adient team won the best technical solution award, the Zalazone team won the most innovative solution award, and the Jankovits 1 team won the audience award. In the production optimization section, the best technical solution was presented by the Jankovits 2 team, while the most innovative solution was presented by the Schaeffler 2 team, which also won the audience award...

The winning teams (Photos: Márton Horváth)

At the end of the successful conference, Prof. Dr. László Palkovics, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Széchenyi István University Foundation, welcomed the participants and stated that there is no area of the world today where technological progress does not affect us. "Mechanical engineers today have to understand many things that are not part of their so called classical profession. The application of artificial intelligence or automation are new disciplines that the times demand of us. I am confident that this event has contributed to the development of these competences”, said the research professor, who also pointed out the future of the event.

All this is in line with the organisers' plans to include electrical engineers and IT specialists in the next conference, as today's complex automotive projects require the involvement of experts from different fields in the design, construction and operation processes. This will of course involve new sponsors and a new section.

According to Prof. Dr. László Palkovics, the International Students Conference on Mechanical Engineering prepares students for real business problems (Photo: Márton Horváth)

So, as you can see, the XV International Students Conference on Mechanical Engineering was a success again this year. Pictures of the event are available in our gallery below.

A few snapshots from the XV Conference programmes. The event was jointly organised by the Audi Hungaria Faculty of Automotive Engineering and the Student Council of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Informatics and Electrical Engineering. (Photos: Márton Horváth)

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