Engineering students retrofit well-known musical fountain

The fountain's control panel, then (1983) and now (2013).
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The fountain's control panel, then (1983) and now (2013).
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A group of Grand Valley engineering students designed and installed an updated program that operates the 50-year-old musical water fountain in Grand Haven.  

The project began when Terry Stevens, adjunct professor of engineering, was contacted by the City of Grand Haven to retrofit the fountain. Stevens performed the first fountain upgrade 30 years ago and thought the project would be a good opportunity for students in his manufacturing controls class.

During the 12-week summer course, students worked in groups to create new control panel designs that would allow old songs and functionality to be used in a new system. A group’s design was chosen, and pieces and concepts from other students’ designs were incorporated in the final plan.

At the end of September, Stevens and three students — Dan DeVos, Josh Stein and Tyler Parker — installed the new hardware and sensors on the control panel of the fountain.

The control computer had to be redesigned from the ground up, said Parker, a mechanical engineering major. “That included adding a touchscreen to replace push buttons, rewriting the programming that controlled the fountain, and installing timers that track things like how many shows have been played,” he said.

Stein, a product design and manufacturing engineering major, said the team will continue to work through the winter and spring to debug and optimize the control program so it’s ready to run next summer.

Built in 1963, the choreographed musical fountain performs nightly on the weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.