Senior engineering students manufacture products meeting community needs

May 01, 2024

Satisfying customer demands was the goal of the Senior Engineering Design course, co-taught by John “JC” Bruce, clinical assistant professor of engineering and business, and Dr. Murat Tiryakioglu, professor of engineering, both faculty in the Davis College of Business and Technology. And that’s exactly what three teams of electrical and mechanical engineering students delivered.

The three products the teams designed and manufactured were the DCOBT HIPS rehabilitation test fixture, the Adapt Trike and the RAIN station.

Student demonstrates HIPS deviceThe HIPS team was tasked with providing a device that provides reliable data for hip torque of a test subject. Their client was Dr. Jeffrey Wight, interim department chair of JU's Excercise Science department. He has conducted research in shoulder joint flexibility and wanted to adapt this research to the hip, says Jack Carver. “He wanted the device primarily for the purpose of testing stretching versus strength training in the recovery process to determine if strength training is more effective than stretching.”

The team built an apparatus that can be adjusted for different hip heights along with different leg lengths—assesses the knee at 90 degrees or the leg fully extended. “The test subject can be placed in the device and will go through a series of testing, where the user will be able to read the full force produced by the leg as its lifted through a range of motion,” Carver said.

Wight said the device was a “clinically friendly system” and really exceeded his expectations. “I do a lot of work with Mayo Clinic, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take this device to Mayo,” he stated. “I think it looks professional and industrial. The associate professor of Exercise Science says the HIPS device will help him as he moves into research on strength and conditioning for older patients.

The HIPS team was comprised of JU seniors Jack Carver, Josh Estavillo, Shanne Hoh and Logan Seger. They learned from this project how much work goes into designing a device. “In your degree, you do a lot of math and base subjects, but in the senior design project, you have to tie it all together to make a fully functional design,” Carver explained. “It’s not just something we can throw together and hope it works. It actually required a lot more testing, going back and checking with Dr. Wight on measurement readings and making sure they made sense.”

Seger feels fortunate to have had so many firsthand engineering experiences like this one while at JU. “Within an academic setting, this course is the closest thing to a real-world application,” he said. “Our professors do an excellent job in treating us, as such letting us solve our own problems and being hands off but also being there for us when we needed advice. It was a blessing in disguise.”

The Adapt Trike team was made up of seniors Jacob Deson, Seth Hogue and Ming Ma. They designed a tricycle for the local company Trailmate for adults over 65 who are struggling from osteoarthritis, allowing them to get out of the house and get moving to counteract issues going on in their joints. 

The device has specific features, like an electric wheel, so users can determine how much they want to exert and an electric grading system all around the steering wheel, so no user has to fumble around to find the brake lever. The trike can also be adjusted for frame length as well as seat and steering column height. 

Ma says this was the first time he’s designed something for a real company. “I learned how difficult engineering jobs are in real life. It took a lot of research, design investigation and manufacturing,” he said. He feels the tricycle can make a significant impact on society for any user looking for a product like theirs.

Josh Bryan, Trailmate chief tricyclist, said the Adapt Trike team developed some great improvements for their Joy Rider. “They really opened up the market for this trike by making it more ergonomic for a wider variety of people, and their brake solution has potential beyond just this little trike,” he said.

The RAIN (Rainwater Analysis & Intelligence Network) System team consisted of seniors Shelby Brimm, Nina Pappas, Alex Salvador and Joel Valdez. The RAIN System is a robust electromechanical system that characterizes the quality of rainwater to analyze chemistry composition metrics. 

RAIN systenThe system autonomously collects rainwater and measures the pH and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) using integrated sensors to understand the impacts of air pollution in our environment. In addition, the system features a real-time user interface through LabView software to monitor the sample measurements during rainfall events. The data can be downloaded from a micro-SD card to create historical trends of rainwater analysis over time.

One of the big takeaways Valdez learned from working on his project was time management. “Understanding that a task will probably take much longer than expected, accepting that fact and acting on it was the routine,” he noted. “Also managing when it was time to move on to another part by making sure I didn’t get bogged down on the finer details when there were much more important, less complete parts of the project requiring my attention.”

Bruce says the engineering curriculum has changed to be very industry-centric, where JU engineering graduates can be plugged in anywhere and understand what it takes to develop or improve a product. “When our students go into these interviews and show them all the things they’ve built for four years, they’re blown away,” he stated. “We see all these other college engineering programs and they’re not producing students that know how to build things and finish projects.”

Valdez said he feels like he’ll have a leg up in the workforce because of the practice he received on this project using industry software, like LabVIEW and CAD, and the fact that he completed a fully functional product. “Being able to say that I was part of a team that researched, designed, manufactured and tested a product to completion is a feat worth mentioning.”

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