Creativity in Progress: Engineering and Computing Expo Showcases Capstone Senior Design Projects

The annual Engineering and Computing Expo brought together the creative minds of USD on Dec. 7. Here, graduating seniors in electrical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science presented and demonstrated their senior design projects, from industry partner and entrepreneurship projects to community research.

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Belanich Engineering Center, the newly renovated home of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, hosted this event. Its open glass design allowed attendees to stroll through the myriad of prototypes, concept schemes, and digital platforms.

Senior projects included a dazzling array of projects in scope and design, a testament to the diverse applications of the skills learned in the engineering discipline. The presenters described their progress on projects which are set to be completed by the close of the spring semester.

Some of the highlighted projects include:

• A banana fiber extraction unit which strips banana stems of their tough fibers to be combined with recycled plastic in a composite as a renewable building source;

• The Picket Autonomous Lawnmower which aims to bring to market an affordable and effective lawnmower that makes the perfect cut independent of an operator;

• A pre-rotating gear system for a gyrocopter, a small unpowered aircraft, which aims to improve the takeoff speed of the machine;

• A smart circuit breaker system sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric which relies on the remote engagement (via a smartphone app currently in development) of a magnetic field to power on or off circuits in home;

• A human-powered three-wheel vehicle to be entered into a racing contest hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in the spring.

Of the dozens of projects in the works, there is great diversity. Some are industry-sponsored, while others have encouraged students to garner their own funding. Austin Hirsh ’19 and Sydney Reiners ’19 of the Picket Autonomous lawnmower working group, for example, earned seed funding through participation in USD’s Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition last academic year. The group later established a partnership with Arrow Electronics, which now supplies electronic materials for the project.

The resourcefulness required to complete a successful Senior Design project, a requirement for graduates of the engineering school, is perhaps the most important aspect.

“The whole purpose of Senior Design is to gain the practical experience needed to approach problems in the real world,” reflects Michael McGaw ‘19, a member of the Picket group. Not only do students get to polish their repertoire of techniques gained through years of rigorous academic training, but they also experience the trials and tribulations of career in engineering.

— Michael Bennett ’19

Photos courtesy of Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering

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