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Ohio University engineering seniors head into final months of capstone projects

Kaitor Kposowa | Feb 4, 2013

Ohio University engineering seniors head into final months of capstone projects

Kaitor Kposowa | Feb 4, 2013

Athens, Ohio (Feb. 4, 2013) - Engineering seniors at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology are focusing spring semester energies on their senior capstone design courses.

The courses ask students to apply principles and concepts from prior core engineering classes in a major design experience, working on a team from conception, through testing, to delivery to a professional client. This real-world application of knowledge helps seniors develop leadership and team-building skills while showcasing their technical abilities.

“People in the industry really like to hire students who have gone through this process, because it shows them how to work as a team,” said Gary Weckman, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering. “It shows them how to go into a real problem at a company and try to figure out what it is, how to approach it, how to solve it.”

The six industrial and systems engineering projects include one that assesses supply flow through local O'Bleness Memorial Hospital's operating rooms, which are high volume areas that are important to the hospital, in order to increase efficiency.

“Students come in and analyze the process,” Weckman said. “Is it staffing? Is it procedure? Is it inventory? And try to make it so everything works more efficiently so operations wont' be delayed.”

Adam Kless, chief nursing officer at O'Bleness, says working with the students is exciting. “I've worked in the role of project manager alongside engineers in health care doing what these students are learning today,” he said. “Engineers bring great value to hospital operations, and I'm pleased to be able to provide them with a welcoming clinical environment.”

Mechanical engineering “Designing to Make a Difference” teams have won four national awards since 2009, earning almost $50,000.

“Students are working to enhance job opportunities for individuals with disabilities, provide low cost and easily manufacturable clean water systems, enhance recycling efforts, and help a local Athens business grow and expand its market,” said Department Chair Greg Kremer and leader of the capstone course.

Continuing one of last year's projects, “Haitian Filtration,” one team is working to provide clean drinking water for students in Haiti by making a sustainable water filtration system.

“The end goal of the company we're working with, 1000 Jobs Haiti, is to simultaneously create jobs and build a source of clean drinking water,” said senior Maria Szramowski.

Five other teams are working with local Jackie O's Pub & Brewery, which is developing its new bottling facility. Some students are designing systems for canning and packaging six-packs of the local beer, and others are looking at how to use brewing waste to benefit local farms.

Meanwhile, civil engineering students choose from structural, environmental, or land development design - in which they design a 300-acre subdivision, including lot layout, grading, earth work, road way design, sanitary sewer design, water main design, storm sewer design, tension base design, erosion control, cost estimation.

Chemical and biomolecular engineering students learn process design, for example, the process of transforming crude oil into gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products. This year, OHIO students have selected ethylene and propylene - expected to become available from the new natural gas resources that are being found in the region - and determine what can be made from them, then design a facility to make those products. They size and cost the equipment that would be required and use engineering economics to determine expected profitability.

Electrical engineering senior Kyle Berry leads a team that is continuing work on an “unidentified flying object” - or “unbelievably fun object,” (UFO) as he calls it.

The tri-rotor, which measures about 30 inches long on each of its triangular sides, may have applications in aerial photography and even food delivery, Berry said.

“People have been talking about delivering pizza or burritos with them,” he explained. “You give it coordinates, it will fly the coordinates and then drop off your burrito with a parachute.”

Designing an autopilot system for the UFO, the team is developing a retractable platform used to simulate flight patterns, working on radios for communication, and tuning each motor for six degrees of freedom. This enables the object to move in x, y and z directions as well as rotate on all those axes.

Bryan Riley, associate professor of electrical engineering, says the capstone course prepares students for lifelong learning, and for jobs in industry, academia, or research. “The experience of working on a project and delivering it to completion makes them front-line problem solvers,” he said.“They have limited budget resources, limited time resources because of their other courses and activities, and they have to deal with the technical aspect of working on problems that may be continuous.”

Berry's passion for robotics has only increased as a result.

“After graduation, I'm considering grad school or a company in order to work with robotics. I'd like to work for a company that makes unmanned aerial vehicles,” Berry said. “So this project is very applicable to what I want to be doing in the future.

Teams from both the mechanical and electrical engineering will demonstrate their projects near the end of spring semester.