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Students Shine at Design Expo

At the most basic level, engineers are innovators: people who approach a problem from an analytical viewpoint, assess variables and how they interact, design possible solutions, select materials and construct prototypes. A controlled, condensed version of this process consumes senior engineering students each year as they tackle the culminating test of their undergraduate years in engineering: the senior design experience.

On Friday, April 29, senior students in Mechanical Engineering participated in the Senior Design Expo, discussing their projects with teams of judges as well as fellow students, faculty, manufacturing representatives and proud parents. The demonstrations took place in the Engineering II building and included 21 teams of students-with one interdisciplinary team of seniors in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering.

In parallel, the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Department held its Senior Design Day demonstrations in the Information Technologies Engineering (ITE) Building, with demonstrations and oral presentations of nine projects, some interdisciplinary in nature. The Biomedical Engineering program also participated, with four teams demonstrating their projects in the Bronwell Building.

Among the ECE design projects demonstrated were a photovoltaic power interface, fire fighting robots, an engine data logger and a landmine detector. BME projects included a small volume viscometer developed for the pharmaceutical industry that could produce significant cost savings, an accessible syringe dosing device intended to ensure accurate filling of a medical syringe, an accessible weight scale that incorporates a ramp design and remote reader to report weight, and a wireless reflectance pulse oximeter for detection of the onset of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The expo drew large numbers of visitors from industry and the university, as well as parents eager to see the culminating projects of their graduating offspring. Each year, students in several engineering departments engage in two-semester capstone major design courses that provide hands-on learning trials and expose them to the challenges and satisfactions of solving real-world dilemmas from the problem definition stage to prototype development. The major design experience usually begins in the fall, when seniors are given an array of potential design projects from which to choose. The design experience involves teamwork and cooperation among team members, a participating corporate consultant, and faculty advisors, affording students a unique learning opportunity to thoroughly examine and solve genuine manufacturing problems or ergonomic challenges.

In the case of sponsored projects, teams work closely with the company, which provides the financial support and the design challenge. In exchange, students research the problem, conceive alternate solutions, design and refine one device or method, construct a working prototype, and provide the sponsoring company regular reports as well as a working prototype. Throughout the process, students apply the core concepts they learned in the classroom to an actual design project.

Three Mechanical Engineering teams were awarded top honors by external judges. The team of Robert Abel, Eric Landry and Eric Loos, who produced a soldier cooling system-evaporative heat sink for Hamilton Sundstrand, captured first place honors and a $1,500 award. The team, with advice from Hamilton Sundstrand engineers Ed Hodgson and Mark Biamonte, developed a heat sink-based cooling system that could be used in combination with special evaporative fabric in clothing to help cool soldiers operating in hot, desert combat conditions. The second-place $1,000 award went to the team of Scott Boulanger, Tim Russell and Matt Capozzi (corporate advisor: Marty Hardesty), who developed an improved elevator rail system under sponsorship of Otis Elevator. The team designed and built a new roller guide and guide assembly, and recommended two alternate, more environmentally friendly and cost-effective films that-taken as a whole-would yield significant cost, labor and performance savings for the company. Capturing third place and a $500 award were Justin Billard, Mikhail Frank and Mary Ann Chesery, who developed a compact eddy damper for ASML, a lithography machine manufacturer. With ASML engineer Steve Roux advising them, the team developed a damping unit that keeps damping to 2%, requires no active feedback and ensures precise manufacture of integrated circuits.

In the Electrical & Computer Engineering expo, four teams captured prizes. First prize was awarded to the team of Altin Dabulla, Richard Liang and Luis Cruz for their fire fighting robot, which successfully maneuvered through a maze to locate and extinguish a candle in a short time. Second place honors went to the interdisciplinary team of William Donat (EE), Stephen Gendreau (EE) and Calvin Zulick (Engineering Physics), who developed an Ethernet transceiver using two physical channels for use in telecommunications. Two interdisciplinary teams shared third prize: the team of Michael Kieslich (Computer Engineering), Stephen Gendreau (EE) and Volkan Konuralp (EE), who developed a data logger that will yield improved tuning accuracy in combustion engines; and the team of Brian Pile (EE), Samuel Yuspeh (EE), Andrew Chemistruck (Computer Engineering/EE), and Mechanical Engineers Li Chen, Phillip DeMello and Anthony Guarnier-who developed an elastomer durability tester, which features an adjustable preload and cyclic rate and pneumatic compression, for Rogers Corporation.

Sponsoring organizations for the 2005 senior design projects in the Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering departments, and in the Biomedical Engineering program, included Pratt & Whitney, ASML, Rogers Corporation, Hamilton Sundstrand, Gerber Technology, Electric Boat, The Siemon Company, Carlyle Johnson, Westinghouse, Proton Energy Systems, U.S. Surgical, Unilever, Otis Elevator, PVTT, OSIM, ASML, Gerber Scientific, Timken, United Technologies Fuel Cells, Mr. Paul Konz and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Medical Instrumentation. Details of senior design projects may be found on departmental websites, accessed from www.engr.uconn.edu.