Seniors Flex Their Design Muscles

One of the significant challenges engineering students face during their undergraduate years is also one of the most exciting and valuable facets of their education: the capstone senior design experience. In this course, conducted over one or two sequential semesters, students work closely with an industrial mentor or other sponsor and a faculty advisor to […]

senior-design4a (57K)One of the significant challenges engineering students face during their undergraduate years is also one of the most exciting and valuable facets of their education: the capstone senior design experience. In this course, conducted over one or two sequential semesters, students work closely with an industrial mentor or other sponsor and a faculty advisor to solve a genuine design problem. The process reaches a climax in the spring with the annual Senior Design Expo. This year’s expo took place April 27th, spread across four buildings and multiple departments and units, including Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Management & Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM). Separate design demonstrations were staged earlier in the week for students in Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering.

The expo represents the culminating showcase event of a project begun typically in the fall, when student teams meet with representatives of a sponsoring company or organization, or even a single client, and first begin to understand the precise nature of the challenge. Throughout the course, the students meet repeatedly with their sponsor and design and continuously refine a process or apparatus geared to solve the problem. The resulting prototype is then put to the crucial test, demonstrated and presented before faculty and – in the case of Mechanical Engineering students – a panel of external judges on expo day.

Thirty-one Mechanical Engineering (ME) teams demonstrated their projects in the Engineering II and United Technologies Engineering buildings. The senior design experience in ME is overseen by Dr. Thomas Barber, a professor-in-residence who recruits corporate sponsors and choreographs the program throughout the year. Judges for the 2007 event awarded three top prizes, which included monetary awards of $1,500, $1,000 and $500. First-place honors went to the team of Jim Cornacchio, Chris DeCesare and Craig Manzi, whose “Separation Monitoring System for Coaxial Helicopter Rotors” was developed for Sikorsky Aircraft as a means to maintain the critical clearance separating the upper and lower coaxial counter-rotating rotors used on the X2 demonstrator helicopter. The team, whose project relied upon magnetic fields fitted onto the rotor blades and a sensor network to gauge blade-to-blade proximity, was advised by assistant professor Jiong Tang and Sikorsky engineer Robert Blackwell.

senior-design4b (58K)Second-place honors went to Joseph Demeter, Francis Hanrahan and Michael Sikora for their “Performance Simulation of Bleeder and Exhaust Brake Systems,” developed for Jacobs Vehicle Systems, an engine brake designer for diesel powered trucks. The team developed a simulation using Simulink ® software to represent and manipulate the functioning of a real 6-cylinder engine. Assistant professor Michael Renfro, along with company consultants Jeff Mossberg and John Schwoerer, advised the team. The team of Paul Fazzino and Fabiano Santin captured third-place honors for their “Parametric Study of a Photolithographic Purging System” developed for ASML, a Dutch manufacturer of photolithographic equipment. With advice from assistant professor Tai-Hsi Fan and ASML representative Steve Roux, the team developed a system for minimizing contamination during the manufacture of integrated circuits.

Sponsors of ME senior design projects included ASML, Pratt & Whitney, Henkel Loctite, MTU AENA, Hamilton Sundstrand, Gentex, Otis Elevator, Unilever, UTC Power, Jacobs Vehicle Systems, Electric Boat, Capewell, OSIM International, Carlyle Johnson Machine Co., GKN Structures, Pitney Bowes, Wiremold Legrand, Sikorsky, FuelCell Energy, Pioneer Aerospace, the Siemon Company and D. Flanagan, DDS. The UConn School of Pharmacy sponsored one project as well.

Thirteen Biomedical Engineering teams demonstrated their prototypes developed with funding from the National Science Foundation, the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Medical Instrumentation, and the School of Orthodontics/UConn Health Center. Professor John Enderle, Director of the BME Program, oversees all BME senior design projects. Three teams, highlighted below, will participate in the 2007 national RERC design competition at Marquette University. Michael Cahill, Kevin Golebieski and Hassam Sultan developed an “Accessible Infusion Pump User-Interface” that permits disabled individuals to accurately, conveniently self-administer vital fluids through an infusion pump. An “Accessible Home Vital Signs Monitoring System” developed by Rob Croce, Mike Kapinos and Jenna Sullivan measures heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, respiratory rate and weight, and permits the data to be easily transmitted to a remote location via Bluetooth technology. Alaena DeStefano, Steven Frisk and Raymond Pennoyer developed an “Adjustable Back Angle Controller” that permits a caregiver greater control in adjusting the back angle of a patient bed.

senior-design4c (55K)Ten Electrical & Computer Engineering teams demonstrated their projects, including three sponsored by Phonon Corp., Unilever and MegaWave. A “Speech Control System for Persons with Disabilities” was developed by seniors Danny Ho, Kevin Tyler and Vimal Vacchani for use by disabled individuals in controlling common household appliances and devices, such as a TV remote controller or a door opener, through spoken commands. The team took advantage of the fact that most homes are equipped with a computer. Assistant professor Mohammad Tehranipoor, who advised the team, said “The speech processing unit is very user friendly. The students tested its reliability by trying the system under various circumstances, such as testing with different people and in noisy area. The entire speech processing unit, communication and automatic door system were designed and built by the students, giving them an invaluable experience.” Another team advised by Dr. Tehranipoor sought to develop a cost-effective programmatic controller to replace an aging system for a photolithography process. Team members Michael Kelley, Benjamin Romeo and Jeffrey Travis developed a robust and flexible software-driven apparatus for Phonon Corp.

Students enrolled in the Management & Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) program also presented their projects. The eight teams were sponsored by Sikorsky, TRUMPF, GE, Pratt & Whitney and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT). Teams were co-advised by ME associate professor Zbigniew M. Bzymek and associate professor of Business Manuel Nunez. The projects involved not only technical aspects but also business and economic facets. For example, one project considered barriers – such as cultural differences, the impact of different time zones, and communications issues – to implementation of an offshore engineering collaboration. Others focused on identifying corporate core competencies that impact product development decisions, process improvement strategies and automation-versus-manual operation decisions. One project sponsored by Sikorsky Aircraft involved proposing further design improvements to the utility and executive versions of the S-76 helicopter. The students had an opportunity to discuss their findings with not only with their instructors but also Gene Frohman, Chief of Sikorsky Aircraft’s S-76D Air Vehicle Design, during weekly video teleconferences linking the MEM senior design classroom with Sikorsky personnel in Stratford. The students received special thanks for their achievements from Eric Olsen, Sikorsky S-76D Chief Engineer.

Click on the PDFs below to view programs for the 2007 senior design expo. Companies and individuals interested in sponsoring a senior design project, or for more information about engineering senior design, contact:

ac (1K) Biomedical Engineering: John Enderle –
ac (1K) Electrical & Computer Engineering: Rajeev Bansal –
ac (1K) Management & Engineering for Manufacturing: Zbigniew Bzymek –
ac (1K) Mechanical Engineering: Tom Barber –