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Senior Mechanical Engineering Students Put Project Designs into Motion

May 25, 2011

Future advances in automotive technology were on display at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology as senior mechanical engineering seniors presented their capstone projects this week.

Students worked in teams with three or four members during two 10-week academic quarters on design projects furnished by national and local companies.  This year's client list included Cummins Engine, Roche Diagnostics, Eli Lilly & Company, Rolls-Royce, Remy International, Sony Digital Audio Disc Corporation and the Southwest Research Institute.

Each team presented their design solutions, with appropriate analyses, to meet their stakeholders' needs.  Oral presentations and a final written report were part of the educational experience.

Derek Bischak, Andrew Corsten, Andrew Johnson and Ian Roberts worked on an ideal posed by Automotive Insight of Detroit, Mich., to apply Smartphone technology to improve vehicle safety.  The team's solution involved developing an Android application that would allow vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

The team focused on using technology to prevent possible dangerous situations at intersections.  The team's application would provide a warning signal to drivers in any vehicle encountering a potentially dangerous situation -- with ample time for a driver to take corrective action.  The team proved that this use of mobile technology application could be a viable in the future.  Automotive Insight is planning further project development, possibly with other Rose-Hulman student teams.

In another project, Steven Jones, Nicholas Predan, Jason Steuart and Klayton Terwiske helped Gared Holdings Inc. of Noblesville, Ind., minimize the duration of vibrations of ceiling-mounted basketball goals.  The team conducted product testing at a nearby high school and offered a solution that would add a damper on the bottom corners of the backboard, attached through an aluminum channel across the back of the goal.  This solution could save the client company approximately $500 when compared to the current solution.

Also, seniors Mitchell Buffington, George Carpenter, Ryan Parker and Marcus Peck completed a sustainability project for the Posey Township Volunteer Fire Department in Staunton, Ind., which sought to lower the carbon footprint while increasing the life cycle and efficiency of the department.  The team focused on the potential design of a geothermal heating and cooling unit for the facility.  Geothermal technologies, which utilize natural energy, have a higher efficiency rating (400-500 percent), reduce greenhouse emissions by 50 percent and have low toxicity.  While this technology solution may come with a high initial cost, it offers long-term financial savings for the community-based fire department.

Other projects had teams offering improvements in Blu-ray disc quality and alternator reliability, a design of a shopping cart assistant, and ideas about how to design hand-held medical instruments.

Each project featured two oral presentations and a final written report.  The team's design proposals were reviewed by project managers and staff at Rose-Hulman Ventures.  Course mentors were mechanical engineering professors Darrell Gibson, Patsy Brackin, Allen White and Zachariah Chambers.