Engineers display creative senior design projects
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 11:05
Innovative senior design projects were displayed in Gampel on Friday, marking the conclusion of a yearlong journey for graduating UConn engineering majors.
The senior project is a requirement of graduation for all engineering majors and begins with a small group of students paired with a department mentor to solve an industrial problem or design challenge. Many groups work with corporate sponsors that provide students with the cost of materials needed to complete the project. At the demonstration, a pool of judges from the industry ranked the projects and some departments awarded cash prizes to winners.
Chad Chmura, Callan Gruber, and Waleed Zawawi scored the top $1000 prize for mechanical engineering projects for their wheel optimization for sliding doors project. The team developed a way to test various types of load wheels — the mechanism that supports the sliding motion of the door — for Stanley Access Technologies.
Biomedical engineering majors Brahmatej Meka, Raymond Songer and Jeff Marcelus have spent the past two semesters creating a go-kart that 20-year-old Shane Davis, who has lost the ability to drive a conventional go-kart due to his cerebral palsy, is able to drive using only his left hand. The students remodeled the interior to match Davis’ wheelchair and added safety features, an alarm system and a remote starter.
“We’re making his dreams come true,” Marcelus said. “This project was a top choice for us.”
Seniors Timothy Dyer, Matthew Connor, and Justin Phillips took home a $250 prize for their third place tie among mechanical engineering projects. The group constructed a machine that tests dental implants for Windham Dental in Willimantic.
“We know everything will eventually break down; this machine lets us know when,” Dyer said as the group’s 3-foot-long machine wielded a rotating arm behind him, prepared to strike dental implants with predetermined forces in order to test their durability.
Thomas Barber, the mechanical engineering professor who coordinated the sponsorships for the department, said he thought this project was particularly valuable.
“Dental implants are expensive. You pay $3,000-$5,000, so you definitely want to know if they’ll last,” Barber said.
Recreating devices in a cheaper, more efficient manner was a common theme among projects, and biomedical engineering majors Stephanie Bendtsen, Joseph Calderan and Celeste Dupont sought to do just that with their construction of a heart simulator. Their apparatus tests the durability prosthetic heart valves for transplant patients. The team worked with Dr. Wei Sun of the UConn Tissue Mechanics Lab and spent only $800 on building the machine, which has a market value of over $60,000.
Other top prize-winners included Jessica Bronowicki from Materials Science
and Engineering for her oral project and chemical engineering majors Cody Unger and Honorio Valdes were awarded first place and $300 for their chemical cooling project.
Senior engineering projects are a key fundraiser for the engineering school, and they have raised more than $250,000 this year for the mechanical engineering department alone this year. The funds will pay for updates to facilities and future projects according to Barber, who added he believes the value of these projects extends far beyond raising money.
“These projects teach students the principles of design, how ethics affect engineering decisions, how professionals communicate ideas and the day-to-day implications of intellectual property,” Barber said. “They make a well-rounded engineer.”