Intern Update: Ben Twitchell

Mechanical Maintenance Intern, Ben Twitchell, has spent his summer repairing and maintaining various equipment across the power plant.

Most of Ben’s work this summer has been preventative maintenance on the pumps in the plant. One of his personal projects has been to use the experience and difficulties as a technician to change his understanding of mechanical engineering and design.

This personal project has seen great success. He says, “I feel like my understanding of mechanical design has changed quite a lot since I started at Prairie State. Every day I am faced with a new challenge, whether it be a plastic gear stripping itself out or a bushing on a pump being next to impossible to remove. If the engineers that designed these systems and devices had seen their practical implementation and the hoops we jump through just to maintain them, I feel that the devices would be engineered differently.”

Ben has learned a great deal this summer. He now sees maintenance as a form of engineering, as the technicians must come up with creative solutions to repair machinery in a timely manner. He has also learned the value of investing in better designs. Through speaking with fuels technicians, he found that a cheaper piece of equipment often has more difficult and costly maintenance. Finally, Ben learned that having the right tools is the key to success.

Ben has enjoyed the constant movement of the work as a technician; there is never a dull moment. He also enjoyed the nearly daily rotation between all the technicians. He says, “My most memorable experience so far was changing the oil in a motor on the crusher tower and looking out at the vast landscape surrounding Prairie State.”

His thoughts on mechanical engineering have changed throughout his time at Prairie State. Ben still plans to go into the automotive design industry, but his internship here has reshaped his ideas on good design for devices that need routine maintenance.