Designing Seniors

ISE holds first ever virtual senior design presentation 

During the spring semester of junior year and fall semester of senior year, four-person teams of ISE majors apply all they have learned to solve real-world problems – whether developing a bio-degradable anti-bacterial fabric or an intelligent tutoring system – in capstone Senior Design projects.  

“ISE students are innovators, who bring their talent, knowledge, and thirst for solutions to bear on their culminating Senior Design projects,” says ISE department chair and professor Mohsen Jafari. “Their projects incorporate building prototypes and developing the technology systems to support them. The remote December 2020 presentations of their impressive work went off without a hitch, which is a credit to our highly capable students.” 

In March 2020, when the campus moved to virtual instruction, students quickly pivoted to prepare remotely for their Senior Design presentation. For the first time ever, the 18 student teams presented their project results remotely to a panel of faculty and distinguished jurors that included ISE alumni Peter Christian ’75, Stanley Makadok ’64, Tim Pay Yu ’73, and John Sharkey ’79, as well as Roman Hlutkowsky, principal of the Hlutkowsky Group and past president of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE). 

Sheri Elsaker, Fayha Khan, Lydia Lo, and Carmen Phu’s “Hempful Finish” project was inspired by the pandemic. The group infused a hemp fabric with natural ingredients such as garlic, lime juice, and vinegar to create an antibacterial, sustainable fabric. “We combined our passion for sustainability with observations on the lack of cleanliness in public spaces to create a product that promotes hygiene, is all natural, and sustainable,” Phu explains. 

“This project is so important because it has everything to do with the pandemic. Before the pandemic, no one really thought about the fabrics they wear or touch on a daily basis. We viewed fabrics not from a fashion standpoint, but from a health and safety standpoint that correlates with how society views surfaces and materials right now because of the coronavirus,” Elsaker recalls.  

“We were inspired by real world events and saw there was a need to improve current conditions,” concurs Lo. 

Lack of access to school lab facilities led to the team’s investment in an incubator, which they passed among their homes, to test their formulas. Khan was pleased to find that, “The natural problems usually do have natural solutions. Chemicals and man-made fabrics do have their conveniences, but in the end, nature can do better.” 

Phu adds, “Hempful Finish is a natural, antibacterial coating applied to hemp fabric. Our vision is to have this fabric in public spaces, such as airplanes, hospitals, and hotels to slow bacterial growth and increase consumers’ peace of mind.” 

The “Slime Mold Network Optimization” team’s exploration of bioinspired algorithms was prompted when team member Kevin Stern wondered if slime mold could compare to Dijksra’s algorithm.  

The pandemic  forced Stern and fellow team members Alexis Gabion, Katelyn Haenny, and Olivia Markowski to create DIY lab spaces that would be as sterile and efficient as possible. “Our entire group was in off-campus housing, so we decided to conduct introductory experiments in each of our homes to determine which environment was optimal,” Stern recalls.  

In surmounting this challenge, according to Stern, the team was able to conclude that slime mold and other biological organisms can offer nearly comparable solutions to current algorithms and technology. “This has opened our eyes to the way we perceive nature and evolution as a whole,” he says. “While we were able to give a definitive conclusion to the question we set out to answer, personally I think our concept has much more room for growth. This makes me want to continue research even though the class has ended.” 

“Tutor Vision” team members Kiran Aiyar, Harsh Patel, Daniel Schechter, and Jacob Vasquez began their project with the mindset of being a top group with a top project. “As a group, we concluded that this would be a great opportunity to use the resources at our disposal and create something special that would allow us to showcase our skills outside of the classroom,” says Schechter. 

He describes Tutor Vision as “an intelligent tutoring system designed to help tutors diagnose their students’ misconceptions using information generated by an eye tracker. It provides fixation boxes along with a predicted confusion score to inform tutors of possible areas of concern.” 

According to Schechter, the team overcame the challenge of being unable to meet in person to work on the project, by setting up daily zoom calls to keep the project on track. In the end, the nature of the project itself proved to be an advantage during the pandemic as required tasks could largely be executed through an online learning setting. 

After starting off with limited knowledge about an industry and coding, they succeeded in creating a proof of concept that actually worked – and that they believe can contribute to the work being done in the fields of eye-tracking, intelligent tutoring systems, and human-computer interactions.  

“What we’re most proud of is that we did all of this ourselves and with mentors through real experience, rather than in a traditional learning environment,” Schechter says. The team is following up with a research paper that it hopes to publish and will be giving an oral presentation of their work at the IISE Annual Conference and Expo 2021.  

For these and other ISE majors, the Senior Design Project is an invaluable experience. As Phu puts it, “Senior Design pushes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to approach real world issues using science, technology, and innovation. It prepares us for industry, as we are given a timeline, key deadlines, budget, and are tasked to create a solution.” 

View these and other Senior Design Project presentations at: