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UNLV Engineering Students Show Off Product Prototypes at Senior Design Competition

Projects include a portable wind turbine for easy power generation following natural disaster, a mobile app that helps shelter animals find families, and a hands-free thermal imaging camera for first responders.
Campus News  |  Apr 16, 2018  |  By Cheryl Bella
Media Contact: Cheryl Bella, (702) 499-3930 or
Maxim Sonsa, electrical engineering, working on his senior project, a toaster that also butters toast.

As graduation approaches, UNLV students are preparing for the capstone Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

On May 3, UNLV Howard R. Hughes undergraduate engineering students will compete for $20,000 in prizes during the 17th annual Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition. Forty-one teams of students from all engineering disciplines, including mechanical, civil, environmental, electrical, entertainment and computer science, will showcase their prototypes and have their projects judged by a panel of local and national industry experts. The projects will be on public display from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the first floor of the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.

A capstone to every engineering student’s academic career at UNLV, the senior design project encourages students to use everything they have learned in their program to plan, design and create a practical, real-world solution to an engineering or computer science challenge.

“Most engineering schools have a culminating engineering project for undergraduates,” said Rama Venkat, Dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. “However, most of those competitions are written plans on paper. Several years ago we decided to give our students practical experience by having them not just plan a prototype, but actually build it and present it to a body of industry experts for evaluation.”

This semester’s projects include:

  • The Turbinator, a portable, easily constructible wind turbine for power generation following natural disasters and power outages
  • Fluffy Mates, a mobile app that will allow people to search all animal shelters at once for their next fluffy family member 
  • FireHUD, a hands-free thermal imaging camera with universal helmet design for first responders
  • Vertical Vegas, turning the Fountainebleau building into a vertical farming development

UNLV’s Senior Design is judged by local and national industry experts who spend a full day evaluating the teams’ prototypes. Winners are recognized at the awards dinner taking place Friday, May 4th, from 5:30-10pm in the Cox Pavilion. This year the dinner is featuring stand-up comedian and Stanford University Electrical Engineering M.S. graduate, Don McMillan, who will bring his own brand of technology-based comedy – “Technically Funny” – to the event.

This year’s keynote speaker will be graduating engineering student, Darius Jackson. Jackson is a double major, receiving a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering and a bachelor’s of arts in computer science. A first-generation college student, he has also received multiple scholarships and held leadership roles in several UNLV student associations including President of Tau Beta Phi, engineering’s honor society, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

For more information on the Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition and Awards Dinner, visit