Inside USD

Engineering Capstones Tap Into Creativity

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The mind of an engineer shouldn’t have creative limits. No joke.

Patrick Walton, a senior mechanical engineering student, said what, at first, seemed like “a funny idea” for a project, quickly “turned into a serious one” for him and three classmates.

Walton was discussing the development of a Kinetic Fountain, a water fountain whose spouts are powered by music, thus connecting arts and science into a successful capstone project displayed at the University of San Diego Engineering Programs’ Spring Open House May 11.

“We’ve been building this version for four to five months, but the testing to get to this point was nine months,” said Walton, who worked with classmates William Lehman, Gabriel Mendiola and Michael Spies. “It’s been a lot of work, but it all came together and we got what we were hoping for.”

The team displayed the fountain in the Loma Hall/Warren Hall patio area for open house visitors to see. The blue rectangular box was designed, according to the team’s description, “to recreate the visual output of an equalizer with multiple fountain outputs. All jets of the fountain receive flow from one large pump that’s controlled by a ball valve connected to a CNC stepper motor. An Arduino board filters the musical input to then send the given outputs to the stepper motor controllers.”

The Kinetic Fountain was one of 13 senior capstone projects presented among the Electrical (EE), Mechanical (ME) and Industrial & Systems (ISYE) Engineering disciplines on Friday. There were also posters on the second and third floors of Loma Hall to showcase Six Sigma-infused products by ME and ISYE students: a durable “bulletproof” school binder; a spacious, daffy desk; tents that provide ample ground-up storage space; and a headphone storage device; as well as freshmen engineering projects.

The four ME capstones, in addition to the Kinetic Fountain, were: an Energy Relay Competition where students created four self-propelled devices utilizing the contest’s theme of alternative energy sources in a relay-race styled competition; a T-shirt folding machine; creation of new tennis ball designs that, through testing of their spin rates and velocity, attempt to slow down the sport of tennis for the sake of crowd entertainment; and continuation of a wind tunnel project that uses lab experiments involving fluid dynamics and heat transfer.

The five Electrical Engineering capstone projects: Biomedical Vision Sensor System (Bio VSS); Curl Environmental Lab; Electri-Cool Magnetic Slot Racing; Emergency Vehicle Alert System (pictured above, left to right, Brandon Kopinski, Scott Gump, Jenni Boles and Leah Fairhead); and a Java Cores, Inc.-sponsored project that had students develop a modern demonstration platform, using components found in current consumer electronics.

The Bio VSS student team, comprised of Anthony McConnell-Collins, Allen Cadreau and Matthew Jauregui, created a mobile device with biometric and environmental sensors. Their idea has three components: the sensors (EKG, core temperature, external temperature and gas sensors); a microprocessor to capture, run and send data; and a mobile device application to send information from multiple units to a central server. The Bio VSS was sponsored by KAB Laboratories, which sought to invest in a system that can provide automatic reports of field position and status in both civilian and military fields.

“There were sensors that examined temperature and heart rate, but we’ve plugged in more sensors,” said McConnell-Collins (pictured, left). The project had physical and functional specifications that aid its effectiveness, including, among the latter, Bluetooth capability, GPS access and real-time updates.

Each ISYE capstone assessed ways to improve existing businesses: Examining drive-thru throughput at quick-service restaurants; improving overall efficiency for L&T Precision, a machining and sheet-metal fabrication company; and improved layout of operations at USD’s E-Waste Collection Center.

A closer examination of the drive-thru layout at quick-service restaurants — where an estimated 60 percent of revenue is derived — was the goal of ISYE students Josh Schroeder (pictured, left), Tariq Abanumay (pictured, right) and Paul Price. Specifically, they sought to optimize the drive-thru layout so that it can be more efficient, especially during peak times.

The students worked with HM Electronics, Inc. and in the end proposed a simulation for individual restaurants to show the interaction between various components. Their data tracked factors such as how long customers waited at a service window for food after paying for it and whether having a menu preview board helped or slowed the process.

“It was a shock to us that there was no time benefit for the preview board,” Schroeder said. “Those that did not had faster times.”

Abanumay and Schroeder said they both enjoyed their capstone project, noting it incorporated many of the educational tools they’ve utilized through their coursework and experiences in USD’s Engineering Programs to put together something of real value.

No joke.

— Ryan T. Blystone

  • Share/Bookmark