Engineering students create practical design projects


The end of the fall semester signals the beginning of a project every student in the School of Engineering must contribute to — the Senior Design Project.

The project, a graduation requirement, allows students to collaborate in groups of between three and five to design a real-world application of their undergraduate education.

Faculty members, doctoral candidates or corporate employees mentor the groups.

The projects aim to create products that cater to different audiences. In the last few years, groups have created products ranging from ingredient-tracking refrigerators to lunar rovers.

Val Red, a School of Engineering senior, is a part of a team working on automated  data storage defense tools.

Transmission Control Protocol is a method of reliable data transfer for computer programs connected to the Internet. Web browsers use TCP to connect to servers on the World Wide Web.

“We’re planning on constructing a suite of open-source network threat-detection tools that work on both the TCP and application layers,” Red said. “We’re working on producing different kinds of attack-trace patterns right now to build an early warning detector for the TCP component.”

The TCP layer of their group’s tool traces and analyzes packets of data as they enter and exit, he said. They look for patterns that may signal a penetration attempt.

The application layer of the tool monitors logs as they are being updated, he said. For example, an unusual amount of login attempts would be noted on Secure Shell, a network protocol for secure data communication.

“[Our] project … would ensure information security with automated measures,” he said. “It would help secure servers in non-business hours when there isn’t a human available to monitor or defend against network penetration attempts.”

He believes these tools would allow an average consumer to store his or her private data in a safe manner.

Some groups collaborate with other teams to work on larger projects.

Sagar Patel, a School of Engineering senior, is part of a three-team unit that is working on constructing an energy-efficient solar-powered scooter.

“We are concentrating the [solar] heat in a phase-changing material,” he said. “The heat storage tank prevents the [collected] heat from dissipating.”

The heat storage tank is planned to then be stored with a Stirling engine, he said. A Stirling engine delivers more power than the traditional internal combustion engine found in cars and produces less noise.

The three groups are working together on different parts of the scooter — one works on collecting the solar energy, another develops the heat storage mechanism and the last creates the engine, he said.

Many students have to find a realistic balance between their work load at the end of the fall semester and planning their spring design project.

Wayne Chang, a School of Engineering senior, is a part of a team trying to make wireless speakers.

“We’re not sure how we’re going do it yet,” he said.

The projects’ costs vary greatly and can be costly, so sponsorship is available through many large-scale companies.

According to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s website, companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boeing and Schlumberger have sponsored student groups.

Companies also send mentors to search for promising students who might eventually be offered jobs. According to the MAE department’s website, the program is a great opportunity for companies to discover new research, interact with potential hires and expert faculty members.

A poster fair is held at the end of every design project season. Much like a science fair, groups make posters with their project’s intentions, results and applications.

Last year’s Electrical and Computer Engineering winning design in the competition was a project called Photovoltaic Thermal System.

The project attempts to improve upon the conventional solar cell model by using the heat generated from a solar cell to make hot water added efficiently to the system, according to the group’s website. The finished product is now patented.

The MAE department does not award specific projects as all projects are posted on their website equally.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering also holds a conference to demonstrate the engineering students’ projects.

For some departments, such as the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the capstone project lasts an entire year, according to the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Master Document.

The project is also offered during the spring semester for those who wish to participate in a project during another semester.


By Andrew Rodriguez

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