Senior Design Showcase Winners

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) congratulates five teams that were presented with awards from the Engineering and Technology Alumni Society on Senior Design Day on May 8, 2020, the first such event held virtually in the college’s history.

The college had planned to have the students showcase their projects at Senior Design Day that was to be held at the NIU Convocation Center. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home order, the course was converted to a remote e-learning class and the event was held virtually. This year, more than 1,400 visitors to the site go.niu.edu/SeniorDesignDay  explored the 87 teams’ innovative project abstracts and posters, and even join the teams in Microsoft Teams meeting chat rooms where they engaged with students in real-time, ask questions, to learn more about the projects. The project posters and abstracts are currently still available to view at go.niu.edu/SeniorDesignDay.

The Senior Design program is a course that engineering and engineering technology students take before graduating.

“The senior design program is a high point in our students’ education. They apply the knowledge they acquired in the classroom to bring together concepts, theories, and construct a prototype or process,” said Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D. of NIU’s CEET.

“They also use problem-solving skills to work on open-ended, complex systems. Along the way, they are mentored by faculty and industry professionals. Senior design projects are often viewed as a student’s first professional achievement,” he said.

Winning Team: Increasing Outputs in Manufacturing

In the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISYE) Department, the team was sponsored by Nobelus located in Schaumburg IL. The team won the ISYE award for their project, “Increasing the Production Rate of Laminate Through Process Efficiency”. This improved product output by streamlining the production processes. The team proposed several process improvements and facility layout changes to increase throughput. A capacity analysis tool was also developed to analyze “what-if” scenarios. A defect form was also devised to identify and seek refunds from suppliers for poor quality raw material. Just the form alone led to immediate savings for the company. The defect form they suggested was implemented before the project was complete and had an immediate impact.

“The team was a tremendous help,” said Chief Operating Officer Kurt Paquin of Nobelus. “They were able to uncover and analyze key processes for us. This was something we were not staffed to do. The team helped us increase output significantly.”

“Nobelus gave us free rein to choose a direction which was a real challenge, but in the end, it was so rewarding,” said team member Patrick Wasilewski. Other members of the team were Manuel Delgado, Jatin Kishore, and Sai Vikas Maram.

Winning Team: Improving Efficiencies in Product Testing

The Engineering Technology Department’s winning team devised a system, “Semi-Automatic Leak Detection” to detect leaks in fluid pump components. The team consisting of Jacob Bostick, Nicholas Bowgren, Landon Brown, and Carlos Perez was sponsored by MTH Pumps in Plano, Illinois. The current system of testing takes an operator between 15-20 minutes to set up and complete and relies on the operator to observe the components under fluid. The team devised a new system that takes only about 20 seconds to set up and is more reliable than operator observation because it uses air pressure sensors. It is completely scalable and modular, allowing the company to test multiple pump components at once.

“Our system is safer, more accurate, and faster,” said Bostick. “We estimate it to cost half of what the current system costs.”

Winning Team: SpellVision

With half a million people using sign language as their form of communication, Team 29 set out to make two-way communication more accessible between hearing and deaf people. They won the first place prize in the integrated programs category for their innovative development of a system that can recognize American Sign Language (ASL) fingerspelling using pre-processed video clips and display that guesses the signed letter. “SpellVision – A Computer Vision System for the Translation of ASL Fingerspelling to Text” was developed by mechanical engineering students Michaela McMahon, Tyler Vogen, and Scot Bishop. Using a cell phone camera, the team took 23 videos of volunteers spelling 15 words in ASL, and using a Matlab code they developed, they clipped and pre-processed videos yielding more 6,000 clips of individually signed letters. The next generation of the project would progress from fingerspelling to words.

Winning Team: Monitoring the Health of Trees by Drone

The Morton Arboretum sponsored Team 14 who were challenged to devise an efficient way to monitor the health of the trees in the 1,700-acre tree museum and research center located in Lisle, Illinois. Early detection and treatment of pests and diseases can save the lives of infected trees. The team got to the “root” of the problem of the lengthy, labor-intensive job with their prototype that won second place in the interdisciplinary team category for their project, “Drone-Enabled Sensing and Monitoring of Tree Canopies.”

The team consisting of mechanical engineering students Peyton Brudi, John Byrnes and Paul Wohler built a Universal Sensor Mount (USM) that can be lifted by a drone and attached to branches at the top of the tree canopy. The USM uses cameras and sensors to send reports on the tree’s health to the staff at the arboretum.

Winning Team: Devising A More Efficient Way to Administer Medication

The third-place award in the interdisciplinary category went to Team 49, whose project, “The Flow of Magnetic Particles in Viscous Fluids” devised a method to control the flow of magnetic drug delivery through blood using a network of magnets. Magnetic drug delivery is a new and emerging way of administering medications. This method delivers the precise amount of medication to the targeted area in the body, increasing accuracy, reducing the amount of medication needed with fewer side effects. The team consisting of two electrical engineering students, Rabia Siddiqui and Eric Strom and one mechanical engineering student, Austin Myers,

designed a matrix of electromagnets and a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to test the guidance of magnetic particles in thick, viscous fluid.

so proud of what these students were able to accomplish despite the challenges of remote learning. And in that spirit, Huskies never quit,” said Peterson. “Our students have persevered through the challenges of remote learning, and with their industry partners, have accomplished their goals. They created innovative solutions to the real-world challenges that they were given.”

For more information about the senior design program and how to present a challenge to a team in the 2020-2021 academic year, visit go.niu.edu/SeniorDesignDay.

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