Senior Design Projects Offer Solutions to Industrial Challenges

With no boundaries, no textbooks, and no solutions manuals, the students of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering are challenged to apply laboratory and classroom experience on a real-world scale to interdisciplinary senior design projects, as part of their culminating work prior to graduating. Projects were presented to an audience of faculty, students, and company professionals at a showcase in the CoRE building on December 6, 2013.

Transforming an open-ended idea into a functional prototype is a semester-long task that involves discipline, said E. A. Elsayed, interim chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. The first steps included selecting one of ten topic areas and drafting a project proposal.

“Students would say I do not know anything about this subject, so they would consult textbooks about plants, textbooks about health, reach out to professionals and professors in the University and conduct research on the Internet,” he said. “It was up to them to research, consult and learn from their project and each other.”

Beginning in September, students took to the drawing board -- with a budget in mind -- researching, drafting, and eventually constructing models based on their findings. In addition, students were required to present their research and findings at least twice to help prepare them for the project symposium.

The results from the three months of research include an automated volleyball machine, an integrated medication dispensing system designed to reduce errors, and an energy efficient, anatomically correct hand prosthesis.

“We looked to tackle a real world problem,” said David Ribiero presenting with his research team consisting of Jamie Galiastro, Anthony Mele, and Hao Zhang. “About 5,000 people a year require an amputation. My grandfather had a car accident a few years ago and required an amputation.”

Ribiero said the prosthesis his grandfather is using is not energy efficient with the batteries needing to be recharged often. Motion is limited with the prosthesis, comparing the hand prosthesis to a machine claw used to pick up candy, limiting its function to a clamping motion.

Keeping in mind both energy efficiency and movement, the team set to work, first researching prosthesis models and developing a functional prototype that was anatomically correct and used this model as an inspiration for their own.

Their final prosthesis is capable of fine object manipulation including rolling a pen between its index and thumb, Mele said.  It also uses various sensors, located in the model’s thumb and index finger, to monitor the conditions of the object the hand is interacting with determining whether the object is too hot to touch. 

“The project required team work and communication that could be applied past my studies,” Mele said.  “I learned how to work well in a team that can be translated in the professional setting and although I am not planning on going into the medical field…. I love robotics and plan to keep working with them.”

Medical deficiencies were also the inspiration for Jonathan Murray, Michael Ostman, Corey Thistle, and Evan Vinjamuri for their integrated medication dispensing system.

“Nurses have a lot of stress and responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is filling prescriptions,” Vinjaman said. “Often it takes up to 15 minutes to preplan and schedule medicine distributions, but with this technology not only will we reduce the time for it take to dispense medication but decrease the amount of distribution mistakes.”

The automated system includes end-to-end verification along with comprehensive software and inventory tracking including technology that provides email receipts for dispensary medication, Murray said. “It will definitely revolutionize the way medication is dispensed in health-care facilities across America,” he said.

Other projects looked to solve dilemmas or bring new innovation to current technologies in fields ranging from sports to athletics.

Tyler Mugavero and his four- team unit looked to improve the traditional inventory system small businesses use with their automated inventory management system that uses software to recognize brands and communicate with distribution centers to fulfill orders.

“Small business often do not have a point of sale system like large companies and manufacturers do but after recent updates with auditing and business, small businesses are looking for the technology to do so,” said Mugavero.

Others took on topics they were less familiar with. Coming into his design project Ariel Rodriguez had little experience working with robotics but by the end, he was able to produce a four-foot tall, fully automated inspection system which had the capabilities of analyzing crack lengths using a camera and sensor to send computer alerts notifying the system of the pipeline break.

“It was definitely a challenging and difficult project but it was something I knew I could do,” Rodriguez said adding he was both glad and relived the project was over.  “Professors gave us suggestions and areas to examine but learning how to implement the technologies and solve problems was up to the students. The programs we created can be presented to companies and potentially used in the industrial setting.”