Seniors Debut Design Projects

Quadcopter fly-offDec. 20, 2017 - The Santa Ana winds took a day off this year, just in time for the Samueli School’s Fall Design Review on Friday, Dec. 8.  This annual event, held outside on Engineering Gateway Plaza, is the first chance for engineering students to present their senior design project goals to a wider audience. More than 120 student teams displayed their posters, outlining the challenges they propose to solve with engineering ingenuity. Faculty, staff and students, as well as a few alumni and industry representatives, turned out to browse the poster displays.

“I was very impressed,” said Tom Nielsen, an industry reviewer who also serves on the UC Irvine Foundation. “The students are well prepared and very aware of the goals they’re trying to achieve. It was fun.”

Projects included a rapid-priming bubble-free syringe, beer-snob smart fridge, biometric hand scanner for curved door handles, gamified respiratory therapy device, concrete canoe, piano apprentice, solar-powered airplane, UCI Rocket project and many more.

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington said that every year the quality of projects and depth of students’ understanding continue to improve. “There is a lot of cool stuff here. A number of our students are taking real chances and being truly innovative in their thinking.”

Biomedical engineering senior Bien Gutierrez was inspired to develop an easy-to-use, quick-to-prepare bubble-free syringe from his own experience as a teenager caring for his grandfather, who had diabetes. When it came time to develop his senior design project, Gutierrez’s heart and mind were set on doing something that would make it easier, faster and reduce the time and cost of medical errors that occur from air bubbles trapped in medical syringes. “I had been a nervous teenager with sweaty palms, having to prepare and administer insulin injections,” said Guiterrez. “I knew there had to be a better way.”   

Over in the CALIT2 Atrium, the freshman experiential learning class was gathered for its end-of-the-quarter quadcopter flying competition. Now in its sixth year, the Samueli School’s Introduction to Engineering class gives students a hands-on engineering experience. This year 326 freshmen participated, with 57 teams of five to seven students designing, building and testing radio-controlled (RC) quadcopters.

Eleven teams qualified for the preliminary round, and then four teams made it into the final contest. Team Lord Farquaad-Copter won.

“The fly-off was very close and based on which team completed the obstacle course faster. Since it was a race and pilots tried to finish as fast as possible, sometimes they could not control the copters. We had two crashes in the final round, but the time difference between the two final teams was close to one second,” said Lawrence Kulinsky, an MAE lecturer who co-taught the class this year along with Lily Wu, director of academic innovation programs.

Wu, who designed the course with Washington, says they added an online lecture option this year to alleviate student scheduling conflicts and because the class was becoming so large. She is amazed that she still sees new and different designs each year even though this is the fourth time they’ve done quadcopters as projects. “The students’ creativity is without bounds.”

– Lori Brandt