In their final year at UNLV, engineering students in all disciplines have the opportunity to take the entire breadth of their educational experience and turn it into a tangible, real-world product. The semiannual Fred & Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition challenges upcoming College of Engineering graduates to implement their acquired skills and create a solution to an engineering problem.
Each senior design team builds a working prototype that goes on display for the public and a team of industry judges, who then rate each team on the marketability of the idea, the technical qualities, and their presentation skills. Winning teams receive cash awards at a ceremony following the competition. For these three teams, it comes down to tackling practical problems with creativity and know-how.
Collaboration is key
“The most rewarding takeaway from working collaboratively on a prototype is knowing that each person in our group had a hand in shaping and creating the final design,” said mechanical engineering senior Myrene Dizon.
Dizon’s team includes fellow students Sean Mulvey and Aphiwat Surunna, and they worked together on a mechanical weheelchair adapter. They combined their experience in automotive work, robotics, and electrical engineering to develop a cost-effective solution that would allow a manual wheelchair to operate like a fully-functioning electric wheelchair.
Hands-on experience builds confidence
As voice assistants become more popular, few commercial devices take physical engagement and enjoyment into account. Conceptualizing this device to the next level, entertainment engineering and design student Ginger-Marie Wilkins designed Hestia, a human-like character that interacts with the familiar voice commands of pre-existing services in home voice-assistants.
A complex project, Wilkins felt more than prepared to take it on. “It’s not a fear of getting started, or the fear of not knowing how to do something that we have to show courage against — it’s the will to keep going that takes courage,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins says Hestia has given her the opportunity to implement a wide range of skills in electrical, mechanical, and computer science through hands-on application.
Focus on commerciality
Filmmakers and influencers often employ drones to film difficult angles or capture scenes from different heights. The electrical engineering team of Michael Johnson and Aaron Rogall have facilitated the art of filmmaking by attaching a hand-held stabilizer to a cart and taking it off its tracks to capture differing heights and angles. Unlike current commercial products, the stabilizer allows the user to cover uneven terrain and decrease as many as 20 takes down to three.
“I starred in an independent film and we had a scene that required me walking towards the camera,” said Johnson. “I remember my friend falling backward as he was filming on shaky and uneven ground. Imagine doing that for an action scene where you need to move faster.”
To execute this project, Johnson and Rogall applied their skills to prototype a design that effectively shoots quality B-roll footage. For influencers, the video or vlog footage will be smooth and create a fluid vision to an artistic montage or transitions between shots.