The final results of the projects created by seniors in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science range from saving corporations money or employee time, to health applications such as a breast pump that allows a mother to assess the nutritional needs of her child, to providing clean water to places without electricity access.
Other projects may improve the UT Dallas experience, including a system that more accurately determines the number of vehicles in a parking garage and a T-shirt-firing robotic cannon that could be used at events such as graduations, pep rallies and sporting events.
The projects were created as part of the UTDesign program, a team-oriented capstone course for Jonsson School students. The teams and projects, mostly sponsored by companies to fill needs of their organizations, are judged annually at the UTDesign Expo, which begins Friday for mechanical engineering, bioengineering and electrical engineering students. The computer science expo will be held May 8. This is the first cohort of biomedical engineering students to go through UTDesign, since the first class of undergraduate bioengineering students will graduate in May.
“One of the biggest improvements this year to UTDesign has been the move toward more multidisciplinary projects,” said Dr. Robert Hart, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering and a UTDesign director. “This is a model that provides a better, more realistic experience for our students and allows them to tackle more complex projects.”
Some of the projects built between mechanical and biomedical engineering teams include devices that automate the removal of a temporary coating used during the manufacturing process of eyeglass lenses; another that automates the collection of 3-D spatial data generated by bone growth stimulators; a nonmetallic endoscope that would be compatible with MRI scanners; and a device that simulates the motion of a human hip and thigh for testing leg prosthetics.
Teams of electrical engineering students had to incorporate aspects of other disciplines as well. Hazen Eckert, Omar Hasan, Ryan Marcotte and Ridhwaan Rahman built a wirelessly controlled robot that could launch T-shirts and other items from a robotic cannon. The team mounted a camera on the front of the robot.
“If UTD had a Jumbotron, we could actually see the crowd from the robot’s point of view,” Marcotte said.
The team had to integrate knowledge of solenoid, sensory control, high-level software programming and video streaming.
“It was really a systems engineering project because it had so many different components,” Marcotte said. “Our project is a mechanically driven issue that we are trying to come up with electrical solutions for.”
During a recent test, the cannon blasted T-shirts up to 60 feet in the air and across the length of the UT Dallas gymnasium. Students and the team’s advisor, Dr. Nicholas Gans, assistant professor of electrical engineering, said they could see future iterations of the robot used at University events, or a company buying it to be used at professional sporting events.
Other electrical engineering projects include adding facial recognition and medical applications to Google Glass; monitoring air quality for pollution; using speech processing to diagnosis mental illness; a breast pump that is more convenient than traditional pumps and reduces acoustic noise; and an alternative, more accurate vision-based system to signify how many vehicles are in Parking Structure I.
While software programming is a component of many projects in other disciplines, computer science students will demonstrate 24 projects during its expo. Among them is one for alumnus Amir Rajan BS’06. The software engineering graduate created an iOS app platform for the video game “A Dark Room” that went viral on the Web, reaching No. 1 in the U.K. App Store. A UTDesign team is helping create an Android version of the game.
Sponsors of computer science teams include large organizations such as AT&T, Fujitsu, Rockwell Collins and Texas Instruments. Other sponsors include business incubators such as Martino Ventures LLC, the Metroplex Technology Business Council and the on-campus Residential Life LLC Staff who are in need of event trackers.
The UTDesign program allows students to fully engage in the design process and use their project-management and problem-solving skills while working on projects applicable to a company, consumer or faculty member’s research. The students learn technical skills and gain valuable experience that sometimes leads to internships and jobs.
Eckert, a computer engineering student on the team that built the T-shirt cannon, has another goal for the program and his project. He hopes the robot will be used during campus visits by students in elementary and high schools.
“We want to promote UT Dallas and inspire young people to pursue careers in science and technology,” he said. “Our project adds to the experience of our athletic games and the character of an engineering university.”
UTDesign Expo Schedule
- Friday, May 1
2:30-4:30 p.m. (UTDesign Studio in SPN) : Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering
1-4:30 p.m. (TI Auditorium ECSS 2.410): Electrical Engineering
- Friday, May 8
1-4:30 p.m. (TI Auditorium ECSS 2.410): Computer Science
The expo is open to the public.