In most spring semesters at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, students would be deep in the lab, working on prototypes for the Fred & Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition. This year, the labs have fallen silent, but the competition rages on.
Despite the campus shutdown, students have the opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas and entrepreneurial skills in a virtual showcase.
“The Senior Design Competition is an exceptional event that gives students the opportunity to exhibit their capstone projects to the public and industry representatives,” said Grzegorz Chmaj, electrical and computer engineering professor and senior design course instructor. “Amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to keep the competition going to support students’ innovation and passion to build engineering projects.”
From May 7-8, seniors will present their projects to a panel of 12 judges in a 10-minute virtual meeting. Industry experts from companies, including Lockheed Martin, Panasonic, Scientific Games, and more, will select winners in each engineering discipline, as well as special categories like innovation, commercial potential, and sustainability. Each winning team will be awarded cash prizes during an awards ceremony. This semester, 106 students are participating on 26 teams.
While completing a senior design project is a requirement for graduation, participating in the competition has always been optional.
“With all of the extra challenges students and faculty are facing this semester, I didn’t know if the college should go forward planning a virtual event or not,” said Molly Marks, director of special events for engineering. “But when I surveyed course instructors and graduating seniors, the response was overwhelmingly positive.”
Senior Design Competition began in 2000 as a way to give students the opportunity to choose, plan, design and prototype a product that meets a real-world challenge. Now in its 20th year, this semester’s students are using their expertise to create alternative methods for space flight, solve water needs, combine virtual reality with physical therapy, and more.
Although students won’t be able to physically display their projects, the public can still get involved by viewing their materials, and casting their vote for which project should win the competition’s Popular Choice Award. Project materials and a voting ballot will be available on the competition's project page from 8 a.m. May 4 through 5 p.m. May 9.
“At a time when COVID-19 has resulted in the closure of businesses, services, and social gatherings throughout the state, I am happy to see that these impacts have not deterred our graduating seniors from doing what engineers and scientists do best – develop innovative solutions to solve challenging problems,” said Adam Godorov, director of land resources at NV Energy and long-time Sustainability Award sponsor. “Competition stirs creativity, and it is the competitive spirit of our graduating students, combined with their years of study and hard work, that culminates in the ultimate experience known as the Senior Design Competition.”