Engineering real-world solutions
A more-efficient ecological cookstove, video games and a drug dispersal device that helps prevent accidental overdoses are just a few of the 195 projects and inventions that were on display during the College of Engineering’s 8th annual Engineering Design Showcase.
Sponsored by ArcelorMittal, the 2015 showcase was the biggest yet with more than 750 students—representing 12 engineering majors and 24 non-engineering majors—exhibiting projects. The event has more than tripled in size since it debuted in 2008.
Much more than a display of senior engineering projects, the showcase is a culmination of the undergraduate engineering academic experience at Ohio State. As part of college’s focus on experiential learning, all undergraduate engineering students spend one to two semesters tackling a real-world problem before graduation.
“Engineering Capstone Design is in many ways the most important part of our students’ engineering education,” said Ann Christy, interim director of the Engineering Education Innovation Center, which hosts the annual event. “It’s in these capstone courses where students bring together all the material they’ve been learning through their four plus years at Ohio State University and apply it to a real-world problem, a problem that doesn’t have a solution. But if they find a solution, it can make a difference.”
While many of the projects involve familiar industries like automotive, electronics or healthcare, some can—quite literally—send students racing in a new direction.
The multidisciplinary student team of Steven Fry, Dino Celli (aeronautical engineering); Travis Murray, Vince Kitsmiller (engineering physics) and Thomas Barnum (health sciences) worked to improve board aerodynamics for 2014 Street Luge World Champion David Dean, from Columbus, Ohio. Similar to its ice-luge cousin, street luge is an extreme gravity-powered sport in which athletes race down a paved course at speeds in excess of 70 mph.
The team recommended some cost-effective ways Dean could improve the design of his board and gear. They estimate that their chest piece and rear fairing design could reduce drag by as much as 40 percent, while maintaining steering stability and control.
The lack of research pertaining to street luge presented a challenge, the team explained, but combining their interdisciplinary expertise with their sponsor’s firsthand experience helped them persevere.
“It was good for us to test a lot of the intuitions that we’ve learned over the past years and try to apply that to solve a real-world problem that hasn’t really been tried,” Murray said.
Beyond the firsthand experience, some capstone projects can even lead to an entrepreneurial venture or career opportunity.
A team of five engineers and one physical therapist created a novel mechanism that makes any wheelchair operable using just one hand. Their design is aimed at restoring mobility freedom to patients who suffer from hemiparesis, or muscle weakness on one side of the body, following a stroke. Unlike the manual version currently on the market, the students say their fully mechanized, lever-based propulsion system is much easier and more intuitive to use. And they estimate that it could be manufactured at a competitive price point.
Team members Matthew Clements, Matthew Korey, Kevin Lie, (biomedical engineering); Michael Rencheck, Samantha Yurjevic, (mechanical engineering) and Taylor Duncan (physical therapy) said they especially valued working on a project from start to finish.
“It was really nice to do a full-blown project where we had a set budget and a client we’re designing for,” said Clements. “It’s a great real-world experience while we’re still in college.”
The team is so invested in the project that they plan to continue working on it over the summer to create a market-ready version.
“We built a new mechanism from scratch and there are a lot of little places where errors can happen, so it took us a lot longer to get everything all together,” explained Korey. “I think we need just a little more time to see if we can get it as functional as we hope it can be.”
More than 80 companies sponsored engineering capstone projects at Ohio State during the 2014-2015 academic year, including American Electric Power, Case New Holland Industrial, Dow Chemical, Honda, John Deere and NetJets.
While most of the projects are sponsor-driven, some enterprising young engineers like Zack Rabin devise their own projects.
After a summer internship with Moller International, Rabin knew just the project to help the company meet its goal of producing the first vertical take-off and landing vehicle (VTOL) designed for consumer use. Working with fellow aeronautical and astronautical engineering students Kelton Rieske, Akshay Joshi, Ali Walls and Kevin Krile, Rabin’s project focused on figuring out the control algorithms necessary to guide a VTOL smoothly through the transition from vertical to forward flight. Their goal is to make that transition feel just like accelerating in a sports car.
The team created a 15 pound model aircraft with 40 pounds of thrust to model their ideas.
“Being able to see what you’re working with, feel it and hold it, especially for an aerodynamicist, you get a much better, more intimate connection with what you’re working with,” said Rabin.
Rabin will take the team’s model and algorithms back to Moller International this summer when he begins full-time work there as a project manager for an emergency rescue vehicle.
As with most capstone teams, Rabin and his peers found the project very challenging, but that’s also what makes it so valuable.
“Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong, and we had to figure it out and fix it,” he said. “So it involved a lot of trouble-shooting, a lot of worst-case scenarios, but we learned so much.”
Learn more about becoming a project sponsor.
View more photos from the 2015 Engineering Design Showcase on flickr.
Written by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org