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Lenape students score working on Zamboni

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 10:31 a.m.
Tim Karan | Leader Times
Lenape Technical School students Jessica George, 19, of Kittanning, and Jason Nimal, Jr., 17, of Wayne Twp., work on the Zamboni from the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.

MANOR — When the staff at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin realized their 16-year-old Zamboni ice resurfacer was in dire need of potentially expensive repairs, they decided to call on a team of mechanics who work for free — well, for class credits, at least.

“I've always wanted to do partnerships with the surrounding schools or businesses and Lenape Technical School seemed like a perfect fit for this,” said Belmont Complex director Gary Montebell. “It had been a long time since we did a lot of work on the Zamboni, and there were some major things that needed to be done. We were initially just going to have (Lenape students) paint it, but then we started developing some leak issues and we said, ‘Hey, they have the technology and expertise. They can probably do the repairs.' ”

Jeffrey Linko, automotive tech instructor at the school, said the opportunity to turn students loose on the $55,000 machine was too unique to pass up.

“I thought it would be a really cool project for them,” said Linko. “So we took a look at it and it was dropped off at the school with a laundry list of repairs. All the Belmont had to do was cover material expenses.”

The project proved to be an eye-opening exercise not only for the auto tech students who have been repairing the Zamboni since mid-March, but also for Linko.

“I had never worked on one before,” he said. “But in the automotive field where there's always changes that come about, students need to be able to start working on a new piece of equipment even if they've never seen it before.”

Linko said the novelty of the project was an immediate draw to students.

“I think they've really enjoyed working on it because it's still something mechanical, electrical and hydraulic — like what they're used to working with — but it's not a normal machine,” he said. “It's kind of a cross between a combine and driving a pickup truck backwards.”

Linko said students repaired an engine oil leak; replaced the ice conditioner and its loose springs; replaced the fuel hose, catalytic converter and hydraulic hoses; added a throttle cable adjusted to turn at 3,000 rpms; and did a complete tune-up in addition to countless other tweaks.

Montebell said material costs have come in around $2,000 and estimated the Belmont would have had to pay another $4,000 to $5,000 to a professional mechanic for labor.

Jason Nimal Jr., 17, a Lenape senior from Wayne Township, said the hours he spent under the hood of the Zamboni proved invaluable.

“I live on a farm and work with heavy machinery, but this was a very unique project and I was thrilled to work on it,” said Nimal. “It was definitely a learning experience.”

He was most impressed with the machine's unique design and complex systems.

“It's interesting how it works strictly with hydraulics and runs on propane,” said Nimal. “Whoever invented these had a good idea, that's for sure.”

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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