Fontaine Modification
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Senior Design Expo showcases the innovative and creative design solutions developed by senior engineering students throughout the year, including this team that is working with Fontaine Modification to develop a device that will more efficiently remove seats from trucks being modified into car carriers. Shown from left to right are UNCC Seniors Benjamin Rizza, Dorian Pallas, Grayson Ledford, Hank Doan and Alex Phan.

Fontaine Modification continues effort to develop young engineers

April 6, 2024

Fontaine Modification, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and engineering students at UNCC’s W.S. Lee College of Engineering are reaping the benefits of an innovative cooperative design-team program. A “win-win endeavor,” the program is designed to help prepare future engineers for employment while helping Fontaine identify and recruit talented employees.

The expansive program is a degree requirement for UNCC engineering students and extends over the students’ final two semesters. Each group of students tackles a manufacturing design challenge set forth by an industry partner. Students typically choose a project in line with the industry they aim to enter.

Each design group works to develop a solution and manufacture a prototype device aimed at factory deployment. This way, students “develop critical skills while working in multi-disciplinary teams tackling problems in electrical, computer, mechanical, industrial and systems, and civil engineering,” according to UNCC.

Fontaine, which is based in Charlotte, has participated as a local industry partner for several years, finding ways to introduce area college students to opportunities in the commercial vehicle space.

This year, Fontaine engineers have worked with a team of four mechanical engineering seniors and one electrical engineering senior. Typically, they meet with their student team weekly and provide three gate presentations (reviews that determine if a project can proceed to its next stage) per semester as they work to complete the design and prototype phases.

Leading this Fontaine team are Tyler Thomas, mechatronics engineer, Paul McSwain, senior engineer of customer applications, and Tyler Zaroff, process engineer.

“We give tips and pointers and ensure the team stays within the project’s scope,” Thomas said.

Fontaine has hired two employees from previous UNCC design teams. Garrett Brown’s 2018-2019 team developed a modular scaffolding solution. He joined Fontaine after graduating in 2019. Joshua Greene’s 2021-2022 team created a new tool kit for measuring drivelines on heavy-duty trucks. Fontaine hired him as a production engineer in 2023.

Greene said he appreciated being able to put the theories he had learned into practical use through the project.

“I selected the Fontaine design project so I would have access to an actual work environment around the trucks,” says Greene. “It was very hands-on working on the project, and we were able to come into the factory with the Fontaine faculty as we developed the tool kit.”

Since joining Fontaine Modification, he’s helped further develop the team’s design.

“As a full-timer, I better understand its importance and how to improve it,” he says.

The UNCC Senior Design Program not only gave Greene real-world experience, it also introduced him the truck modification industry.

“I had no idea that Fontaine even existed—so I may not have sought out the position that I was hired for,” he says. “It’s a two-way street. Fontaine learns of strong candidates, and we bring in new, fresh ideas that build collaboration between experienced and new engineers.”

The current Fontaine-UNCC design team is developing equipment to quickly and easily remove seats from Freightliner MD114SD and M2 trucks as they are converted for use as car carriers. The project runs through May.

At the end of the project, Fontaine plans to take the final prototype and design documentation in-house, optimize it, and then produce the equipment for use across all its modification centers that perform the car carrier modification.

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TBB staff