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Graduating Seniors Shine at Senior Design Conference

Wednesday, May. 16, 2012

Robots, a hybrid racecar, dozens of solar panels, these things are not unusual sights around Bannan Hall, the home of Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering. Rather, it was the number of engineering students dressed in formal wear that was downright weird.

On May 10, senior engineering students put on their most professional duds for the 42nd Annual Senior Design Conference. Projects ranged from a hybrid racecar to a high efficiency clothes dryer and were presented throughout the afternoon during both classroom sessions and outdoor demonstrations.
 
“This is our centennial year, so we’re looking for special performances from our students,” said Godfrey Mungal, the School of Engineering’s dean. “We’re trying to raise the bar for senior design projects.”
 
Mungal cited a new faculty initiative as helping to achieve this goal. For the first time, faculty received teaching credit for advising student projects. This included the Formula Hybrid, a project where 20 students and 6 faculty advisors collaborated to compete in the international competition. Teams from around the world designed, built, and then tested open-wheel, single-seat, electric or hybrid-electric racecars against each other during the 2012 competition in New Hampshire.
 
“It was an exciting experience to compete with teams from universities in Canada and Spain,” said Robert Kozak, a mechanical engineering student.
 
The SCU team ended up placing 16 out of 44 universities. According to Kozak their performance impressed judges. In order to compete, teams must first have their car vetted by judges as adhering to the competition’s stringent guidelines. “The judges told us that most first year teams don’t pass inspection,” he said.
 
Other projects on display were the results of continuing research started by previous senior classes. One such example was the Roverwerx: Robomedic for Triage. This robot is designed to enter disaster areas, search for survivors, and then assess their medical needs in order to assist emergency responders.
 
“When we started work on it, the robot didn’t move and the arm had less mobility,” said Kelsey Brunts, a bioengineering major.

Brunts and seven other students across four disciplines were able to get the robot moving and add several degrees of arc to the robotic arm attachment, which can be outfitted with various medical sensors, such as one that detects respiration. For Brunts the hardest part of the project was communication—and not between herself and some of the lay audience at the day’s outdoor demonstration.
 
“Communicating across disciplines is challenging,” she said. “We work with other disciplines on homework all the time, but to work on an actual physical, three-dimensional robot in a very collaborative project is a big challenge.”
 
For a complete list of 2012 Senior Design Conference Winners, go here.

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