Engineering Students’ Projects Showcased at Design Day

<p>Joey rides the slide ... the automated retracting coaster slide created  by students in the school of engineering. Photo by Margaret Malmborg</p>

Joey Toce rides the automated retracting coaster slide created by engineering students. Photo by Margaret Malmborg

Six-year-old Joey Toce loves being outdoors. But just moving around the yard can be difficult for the cheerful Southington boy who has cerebral palsy.

With the help of students from the School of Engineering, Joey recently expanded his mobility with a sleek new all-terrain “Joe-kart” – similar to a go kart – that can be operated remotely by his parents or by Joey himself once he learns how to manipulate the switches.

The students also made a “modified slide coaster” for Joey that will allow him to enjoy the thrill of rushing down a roller coaster-like slide time and again without fear of being injured. Joey’s mother, Katrina Toce, said Joey loved a commercial version of the slide but often had difficulty controlling his posture and legs during the descent. It also was hard for her to pull Joey back up to the top of the device for another run. The UConn-made slide has a special harness for Joey’s safety, and a motorized winch to help re-set the device for repeated use. During the past year, the students also made Joey an adaptive sled; a Hungry, Hungry Hippos game; and a wireless device for playing DVDs and CDs.

“All of these have been wonderful for Joey. He really enjoys the independence they allow him,” says his mom. “Joey loves speed and all things that ‘go,’ and he enjoyed being pulled around the yard by his dad in the snow. … All of the projects far exceeded our expectations and all three design teams did a wonderful job!”

The senior engineering teams that worked on Joey’s projects showcased their devices and presented them to Joey and his family during the School of Engineering’s annual Senior Design Presentation Day on April 30.

Professor John Enderle, director of the University’s undergraduate biomedical engineering program, has been helping his students design and build adaptive devices for disabled children and adults since 1988. The program allows students to use the problem-solving, creative and technical skills they learned at UConn to tackle real-life situations. The projects are funded by the National Science Foundation and materials are provided through corporate donations.

“It’s a very eye-opening experience for them at first,” Enderle says of his students. “The level of challenges we place on them is unlike any other course they have taken before. But by the end of the second semester, they think this is the best course they have ever taken. The skills they learn and their experiences interacting with their teammates and the families are second to none.”

The biomedical engineering students also helped 10-year-old Annalee Hughes of Tolland, who also has cerebral palsy, by developing a physical therapy device that will enable her to strengthen her leg muscles and gait over time. The device allows Annalee to “walk” while braced and harnessed in a sturdy, full-size walking apparatus. Another team built a low center of gravity motorized chair for Annalee that will allow her to safely maneuver around her yard without tipping over.

<p>A large crowd gathered around Shawn Fonseca (ME) as he explained the magnetic shape memory alloy actuator developed with Michael Santone, under the guidance of Professor Jiong Tang. Photo by Margaret Malmborg</p>

Mechanical engineering major Shawn Fonseca explains the magnetic shape memory alloy actuator he developed with Michael Santone, advised by Professor Jiong Tang. Photo by Margaret Malmborg

The biomedical teams were only part of the Design Day showcase at Wilbur Cross. On another side of the building, close to four dozen teams of mechanical and electrical engineers showcased their individual projects, which ranged from a solar-powered portable cooler for use at the beach to an improved electric car propulsion system that relies on advanced alternators to replace more traditional AC motors. More than 70 industry- or government-sponsored projects were displayed. Separate design demonstrations for chemical, civil, computer, and environmental engineering took place earlier in the week. Awards for top designs ranged from $500 to $1,500.

Thomas Barber, a professor-in-residence of mechanical engineering, said his students tackle real-world projects posed by Connecticut industry and business leaders. Many seniors are offered jobs based on the success of their designs, and a number of devices have patents pending. For instance, Barber said, a device students created that uses a pneumatic actuator and high-impact water column to test the strength of composite laminates has important implications for the submarine industry and is likely to be put into use soon by the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Groton, the project’s sponsor. He said another device developed by students last year is going to be part of the Wiremold Co.’s product line this year. Wiremold is a major manufacturer of wire products and devices located in West Hartford.

<p>Electrical Engineering major Hetul Patel explains to visitors his Electrocar senior design project at a convention in Wilbur Cross Library on April 30, 2010. Photo by Lauren Cunningham</p>

Electrical engineering major Hetul Patel explains his electrocar senior design project during Design Day on April 30. Photo by Lauren Cunningham

“The confidence the students exude is always refreshing. This is really an excellent show,” says Stephen Parkinson, whose Capewell Components Co. sponsored a team that used Newtonian kinematics and elaborate engineering equations to create a computerized model that will help packages dropped from airplanes arrive at their proper destinations. Located in South Windsor, Capewell is the world leader in aerial drop systems.

For senior electrical engineer Sean Tierney, working on his team’s solar-powered cooler was a memory that will last a life time. But the best is yet to come. Tierney, whose team built a small plastic cooler outfitted with thermoelectric modules to replace traditional ice, is going to work as an engineer for United Technologies after he graduates.

<p>Mechanical engineering major Brian Beahn explains his senior design project to a visitar at gather at Wilbur Cross Library's senior design project convention on April 30, 2010. Photo by Lauren Cunningham</p>

Mechanical engineering major Brian Beahn explains his senior design project to a visitor during the Design Day presentation at the Wilbur Cross Reading Room. Photo by Lauren Cunningham

<p>Mechanical Engineering senior Erik Kong discusses a bearing testing unit with alumnus Richard Gamble (Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, '49). Mr. Gamble, now retired, is a former president and CEO of Colt Industries and a former executive with Hamilton Standard (now Hamilton Sundstrand).  Erik and fellow student Stephen Symski (ME) developed the "Metering Tank Bearing Failure & Design Analysis" project for Rogers Corporation. The project captured second prize and $1,000 in a juried competition among Mechanical Engineering seniors. The students presented their prototype during the School of Engineering's Senior Design Demonstration day held in the Wilbur Cross building on Friday, April 30. Photo by Christopher LaRosa</p>

Mechanical engineering senior Erik Kong discusses a bearing testing unit with Richard Gamble '49. Kong and fellow student Stephen Symski developed the project for Rogers Corp. Photo by Christopher LaRosa

<p>School of Engineering students Peter Liaskas (EE) and Matthew Bonito (ME) discuss their project, "Staple Force Test Fixture," with an event attendee. Peter, Matthew and fellow students, James Li (EE) and Isaac Anderson (ME) developed the project for Covidien. This multi-disciplinary project consists of the design and execution of a prototype to determine the stapling force in a commercially available surgical stapler provided by Covidien. The students presented their prototype during the School of Engineering's Senior Design Demonstration day held in the Wilbur Cross building on Friday, April 30. Photo by Christopher LaRosa</p>

Electrical engineering major Peter Liaskas and mechanical engineering major Matthew Bonito discuss their project, a prototype to determine the stapling force in a commercially available surgical stapler, with an event attendee. Liaskas, Bonito, and fellow students James Li and Isaac Anderson developed the project for Covidien. Photo by Christopher LaRosa

<p>Electrical Engineering students Juby Thomas-Thengumthyil and Sean Tierney pose with their senior design project, "Solar Powered Cooler." Juby, Sean and fellow student Brandon McCall (EE) developed a solar and battery-powered cooler for keeping food and beverages cool. The students presented their prototype during the School of Engineering's Senior Design Demonstration day held in the Wilbur Cross building on Friday, April 30. Photo by Christopher LaRosa</p>

Electrical engineering students Juby Thomas-Thengumthyil and Sean Tierney pose with their senior design project, "Solar Powered Cooler," a solar and battery-powered cooler to keep food and beverages cool. Electrical engineering major Brandon McCall also worked on the project. Photo by Christopher LaRosa