Electrical, mechanical engineering seniors demonstrate designs a year in the making
By Colleen Carow and Adrienne Cornwall
Athens, OHIO (April 22, 2013) — Last week, Ohio University senior design teams from the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology showed off their capstone course designs in the Academic & Research Center atrium living room and Stocker Center.
The capstone course tasks students with applying principles and concepts from prior core engineering classes in a major design experience. Over the course of the academic year, they work as part of a team on product conception, through testing, to delivery to a professional client in order to develop leadership and team-building skills while showcasing their technical abilities.
On Wednesday and Thursday, electrical engineering students presented projects including rain and temperature sensors for automobiles, a GPS patch antenna, and a weight scale that translates voltage to an accurate weight.
Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Bryan Riley, leader of the electrical engineering capstone course, was on hand to congratulate the teams for their year of hard work.
“They should be proud,” Riley said. “This year, there were nine projects with varying technical challenges and ranging across disciplines from software design to hardware device fabrication. Projects require the student to demonstrate self-learning of new concepts, use of state-of-the-art tools, teamwork, problem-solving, and also to satisfy planned milestones.”
“SAVED” team members designed car temp sensors to automatically roll windows down in a vehicle that reaches a certain temperature, in order to decrease the risk of child and animal deaths in overheated cars.
“Our motivation is reducing child deaths,” said Mark Dixon, who worked on the design with fellow team members John Boertlein, Kyle Hone, Faye Skeans and Tim Howell.
The “UFO: Unbelievably Fun Object” team, comprising David Parisi, Tyler Earl and Kyle Berry, who inherited their tri-rotor project hardware from previous years’ teams, worked to improve the custom vertical take-off and landing of the hovercraft.
According to Berry, the team added a potentiometer and updated the software in order to control three degrees of freedom in flight.
“This year our main accomplishment was achieving three degrees of freedom, or rotating around the x, y and z axes,” said Kyle Berry, noting the roll, pitch and yaw of the aircraft. As a result, the tri-rotor can now recover and level itself after a collision during flight. The team’s research and design results will support future development and implementation of control software in quad-rotor craft, so they can operate with just three rotors in the event that one rotor fails.
Other teams included the robotic Bobcat, a vacuum chamber to study the effect of temperature and pressure on nanomaterials, improvements to aircraft systems for pilot awareness using three cameras and two ultrasonic sensors, and replacement lighting for Convocation Center using more efficient LED lights that require significantly less maintenance. Students plan to present the project to University officials for implementation.
Mechanical engineering seniors revealed their “Designing to Make a Difference” capstone projects Saturday.
Past teams have won four national awards since 2009, earning almost $50,000.
Several of this year’s teams partnered with local business Jackie O’s Brewery. One group fabricated a “Kegovator,“ a keg lift installed along a service stairwell to increase efficiency and reduce employee effort and injury when transporting kegs from the brew pub’s basement storage area to the main serving floor.
“This is taking all the back out of it,” said team member Bobby Baldino.
With fellow students Binbin Fan, Cody Kyser, Seth Morton and Christopher Nocar, the team built the machine with some welding help from Logan Welding for a cost of only about $530
Other brewery-based projects included a lift and dump system to move grain from brewing vats to vehicles transporting the grain to farmers for animal feed, a fan-based grain dryer to dry used grain that can’t be immediately used as animal feed to extend its shelf life and make it sellable, an automation system to move empty beer cans from a pallet onto the moving canning line conveyor, and a packaging system that automates the process of putting filled beer cans into six packs for shipping.
Jackie O’s Owner Art Oestrike thinks there is no better way for students to learn. “Athens, Ohio, incubates college students. The more experiences they can get within the business community, the better and more rewarding their education becomes -- learning really begins when working with a real client,” he said. “Working with a local organization, they’re not only going to get that experience but have that connection.”
Two other mechanical engineering groups worked to help local business SW Resources improve efficiency of tasks for its disabled employees.
Team EZ Squeeze created a pressurized air system for transferring thick polishing fluid from large bottles into 1-oz. sample-size bottles.
Meanwhile, the Bag-n-Tag team fabricated parts on a CNC machine using their computer-aided designs, for a stapling machine they developed to help employees accurately and securely staple product header cards to plastic bags while also sealing the contents. Team members Suyao Zhang, Ivan Bissett, Justin Hoye, Ryan Shaw and Daniel Zimmerman, agreed that the manufacturing process was a great learning experience because it helped them design more effectively.
“It’s really important to understand manufacturing to understand how to design effectively,” Shaw said.
Other teams worked on designs to integrate multiple water filters with a water distribution and control system for a school in Thomonde, Haiti; created a portable recycling system to improve sorting and salvaging of recycled material from waste containers at outdoor festivals; and built a machine that crushes beer bottles to make them easier to transport for recycling.
Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Greg Kremer, who leads the capstone course, is proud of the creative and practical solutions.
“At the beginning of the school year, each team took on a challenge of solving a real need for a customer, and spent from 500 to more than 1,000 hours to complete these prototypes. The payoff is great: products that make a difference in the lives of their clients, and the kind of learning that comes from seeing your own ideas actualized in a working prototype.”