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Sunday, 30 August 2015 22:00

Calvin engineering grads create new personal watercraft design

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Calvin engineering graduates Josh Vanderbyl, Zak DeVries, Nico Ourensma and Ryan DeMeester took the opportunity during their senior project to design a new personal watercraft that’s gaining national attention, including a spot in a segment on the Discovery Channel. Calvin engineering graduates Josh Vanderbyl, Zak DeVries, Nico Ourensma and Ryan DeMeester took the opportunity during their senior project to design a new personal watercraft that’s gaining national attention, including a spot in a segment on the Discovery Channel. COURTESY PHOTO

GRAND RAPIDS — A team of four Calvin College engineering program graduates are making waves with a product that’s a cross between a personal watercraft and a snowmobile.

For their senior engineering design project, the team modeled the Jet Blade after the WetBike, a watercraft first introduced in the late 1970s that was designed with one ski in the front and one in the back.

“The WetBike gave us the idea of how it would be cool to make something that hydroplaned but what could we do to make it different. That’s when we came up with the two-ski design,” said Ryan DeMeester, one of the graduates working on the project.  

The team engineered its Jet Blade with two skis in the front instead of one, and both steer and tilt as the handlebars are turned – which significantly enhances its stability, DeMeester said.

The group also redesigned the craft’s hull for better buoyancy and handling.

The project caught the eye of the Discovery Channel, which will premiere an episode of the “Daily Planet” program featuring the Jet Blade on Aug. 31.

DeMeester and the rest of his team — Josh Vanderbyl, Nico Ourensma and Zak DeVries — hope that if their Jet Blade design goes into production, it will appeal to consumers who are looking for a ride other than a typical jet ski. While the team’s prototype is functional, the design is still a long way from full-scale production.

“It’s a working prototype but not a robust prototype where you could go out and sell it and it would last for five years,” he said.

As the project progresses, DeMeester acknowledges the importance of being able to take the Jet Blade concept from an initial design to prototyping and testing during his senior project.

“We were really able to take it from the computer model all the way to the finished manufacturing portion and do the testing on it,” he said. “The education at Calvin really helped make that project a reality.”

All four of the team members remained in West Michigan after graduating in the spring, and all are employed at local manufacturers, which include Shape Corp. (Vanderbyl), Progressive Surface Inc. (Devries), Woodward Inc. (Ourensma) and Plascore Inc. (DeMeester).

Read 5876 times Last modified on Sunday, 30 August 2015 22:30

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