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Entrepreneurism, Innovation and Sustainability Honored at Engineering Showcase

ThermoFisher Label Remover team wins People's Choice AwardClear Blue Sea, a prototype for a robotice device to remove plastics and other waste from the ocean, won the Professional Gold Medal Award at the May 10 Engineering and Computing Showcase.

Every day biotechnology firm Thermo Fisher Scientific receives more than 400 antibody vials from multiple vendors that need to be re-labeled. The current manual process uses a blade that is unsafe for workers and inefficient.

But a team of USD Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering students has come up with a solution to automate the process that first scans and images the vials to make sure none are damaged and then uses tape to remove the label. And on May 10 their work was rewarded when their automated label remover was voted the People’s Choice Award at the spring Engineering and Computing Showcase.

A buzz of excitement turned into a roar of applause as the winners were announced.

“I’m really excited and happy to win,” said mechanical engineering team member Fadhel Mohammed. “After the effort we put in, I think it’s a well-deserved award,” he added, thanking Assistant Mechanical Engineering Professor Bryan Cornwall, the team’s adviser, along with other faculty and Engineering Dean Chell Roberts for their support.  

Clear Blue Sea, a prototype for a robotice device to remove plastics and other waste from the ocean, won the Professional Gold Medal Award. Click and Print, a 3D-printer for high-tech materials, won the David Malicky Innovation Award while IHS, a data-driven engagement and scheduling strategy for a regional health care contact center took home the Outstanding Industrial & Systems Engineering Project, and the Perimeter Security Defense System won the Outstanding Computer Science Project Presentation Award. 

The showcase featured nearly 40 teams exhibiting their innovative entrepreneurship, community, faculty research, competition and industry-sponsored projects.

Zoey Mau was part of a team that created a machine capable of extracting fibers from the stems of banana plants to create sustainable and inexpensive roofing materials for a village in the Dominican Republic.

“Our machine is simple to use and it doesn’t require a lot of engineering knowledge” or ability to speak English, Mau said. Designing a project from start to finish is an “awesome” experience that teaches teamwork and other important skills. “There are things we don’t learn in our curriculum that a senior design project gives you a chance to expand on.”

Computer science senior Conor Shea worked on a Northrop Grumman-sponsored project to automate and control the amount of expensive and currently scarce helium used to test the next generation of computer chips at super-cold temperatures.

“Our industry mentors really helped us out,” he said. “It was great interacting with them and getting into that business world environment.”   

As the number and complexity of projects has grown in the last few years, many proud parents are also attending the showcase.

“We always like to brag about USD,” said parent Brad Webb of Visalia, Calif., whose son Jeff is graduating this spring. “My son has already had a couple internships” and “he’s really getting a broad experience” as he prepares to start his career.

The Webb family's younger son Christopher, who'll be attending college in five years, is also impressed. Asked if he’d like to attend USD and the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, he didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” he replied. “It’s a great school.”

— Liz Harman

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