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Interdisciplinary design project brings electrical, mechanical engineering seniors together

Megan Reed | Apr 24, 2017
Interdisciplinary design project brings electrical, mechanical engineering seniors together

Interdisciplinary design project brings electrical, mechanical engineering seniors together

Megan Reed | Apr 24, 2017

For many Russ College seniors, their final semesters at OHIO are focused on yearlong capstone design projects, which test their technical, teamwork, and communication skills. This year, two student teams have had the added challenge of collaborating across disciplines to deliver an effective product to their shared client.

The teams – one from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and one from the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) – have spent the academic year working together to improve efficiency and safety in avionics construction.

“In the workforce, we’re going to be working with people from different disciplines. We definitely work better together than separate,” ME student Derek Sandera said. “I’m glad we were able to do this, and I hope future teams have the same opportunity for collaboration.”

The teams’ client is aviation engineer Tom Wakeman, who asked the students to design a torque wrench with a prescribed limit to the amount of torque it can apply. Improper torque can lead to fuel leaks and fires, and the process currently undergoes human inspection, which can be subject to error.

Students spent the fall semester researching the project and visiting manufacturing plants where the wrench could be used. The two teams each designed part of the wrench, and their parts work together to apply proper torque throughout the assembly process.

ME team member Kane Pickrel said the project has taught him the importance of understanding a client’s needs, preparing him for an industry that values creativity.

“Entrepreneurship is really critical now,” he said. “The industry is changing, and this program has allowed us to have a personal relationship with the customer.”

The ME students’ prototype costs less than $500 and uses electromagnets to engage the wrench. A laser guidance system designed by the EE students communicates with the wrench so it knows where to torque and how much torque to apply.

EE student Megan Stickney said working with a client to solve a specific problem has helped her apply what she has learned in the classroom to develop a real-world solution.

“That’s what we’re going to be doing in the industry. We’re not just looking at numbers on the page,” said Stickney, who plans to pursue a master’s degree at the Russ College next year. “We’ll be designing things, working with management teams, and presenting the project – and if you can’t present the project well, you might not ever be able to even make the project. It has been a very eye-opening process for me.”