UA engineering seniors solve industry problems with projectsby Alan Fischer on May. 06, 2009, under Education, Local, Special
University of Arizona engineering senior Javier Heyer cooked his Cinco de Mayo quesadillas with the power of the sun.
Heyer and his team were among 70 groups participating in Engineering Design Day at the UA Student Union Memorial Center.
Four- and five-person student teams demonstrated projects that covered a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines, said Jeff Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering.
Student projects displayed included a missile blast deflector for an Apache helicopter, a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles, a full-spectrum imaging system, a leave-behind remote sensor, solar cars, an ultraviolet pasteurizer for milk, a photovoltaic energy system for remote power applications and a pepper spray mount for an M-16 rifle.
Senior student teams worked for two semesters to solve problems presented by industry partners, Goldberg said.
“The primary goal is to give students design experience with a real client in a practice mode,” he said. “We want to give them a rehearsal.”
Student teams also competed for more than $10,000 in cash prizes donated by event sponsors, Goldberg said.
Heyer’s team built a solar cooker that uses a Fresnel lens to focus the sun’s energy to heat mineral oil.
The oil is circulated to warm stovetop heating elements, he said.
The oil can be circulated to heat cooking elements inside the home or restaurant, as well as outside where the solar collector is located, he said.
Despite Tuesday’s overcast skies the solar cooker reached 330 degrees while grilling cheese quesadillas, he said.
One team developed a portable device to detect gluten, a substance found in cereal grains to which many people have allergic reactions.
Food can be tested to see if it contains gluten and is safe to eat by people with a gluten intolerance, said team member James Nimlos.
The device’s portability means it can be used to test restaurant food for gluten, Nimlos said.
At the other end of the digestive spectrum, a team developed a device to remove loops that develop in a flexible colonoscope instrument that is being pushed through a person’s bowels during a colonoscopy exam.
Looping of the colonoscope inside a person means the examining doctor must spend time straightening out the instrument, said Blake Randolph, team member.
The improved way of straightening out an inserted colonoscope could cut 30 minutes off an exam, Randolph said.
A UA senior engineering team developed a device to warn drivers who doze off behind the wheel.
Their brain wave activity alarm, a lightweight wireless device that detects when eyes get droopy and close, could improve driving safety, said team member Joseph Bitz.
The devices, which can be manufactured in large quantities for $6.52 each, could have other uses including medical monitoring of brain activity, team member Henry Barrow said.
The device could hit the market within the next year or so, Bitz said.
UA engineering sophomore Kevin Ferguson viewed the senior project demos and said Engineering Design Day showed him what his professional future holds.
“It gives you a very real idea of what you are getting into and what you can do with an engineering degree,” Ferguson said.
The event contributed to the seniors’ grades, as well as showcasing their engineering skills, said Martha Ostheimer, director of the UA interdisciplinary engineering design program. She said 65 judges from 40 companies spent hours judging the teams for prizes and grades.