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Engineering students present senior capstone projects digitally

With the in-person event canceled, students presented in live video conferences.

Each year, graduating seniors in the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) present their senior design capstone projects at the CEAS Showcase. Although the usual in-person event wasn’t possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the desire to celebrate the hard work of these students remained. 

Determined not to cancel, student organizers from CEAS Tribunal and Tau Beta Pi re-worked the event to be conducted entirely online. Students were able to make and post a video presentation outlining their projects (available on the Tribunal website), as well as answer questions from participants during live video conferences held on April 17.

Projects covered a wide range of topics, including converting used coffee grounds into new, sustainable products; the fabrication of a pinball machine; a water filtration system; sterilization system for medical equipment in developing countries; a battery-powered cover for a U.S. veteran’s scooter; and a mobile 3D-printing robot.

Student teams participating in the showcase competed for prizes: $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second and $750 for third, as well as the crowd favorite/honorable mention worth $750. Presentations were judged by UC faculty, alumni and industry representatives. Event sponsors Ellison Surface Technologies, Mazak Corp., Marathon Petroleum and Motz Engineering also served as judges.

Shifting the CEAS Showcase from an in-person event that last year was hosted at Nippert West Pavilion to an online platform came with a learning curve for student organizers from CEAS Tribunal. Andrew Wiedeman, a mechanical engineering student and part of the Tribunal executive committee for event planning, said that after the cancellation, treasurer Omar Alsayed suggested making it a digital event. With collaboration from Wiedeman; Chris Bercz, VP of events; Logan Lindsay, president; and Mihir Patel, technology chair, they set to work on a virtual platform on their website

“Given that many seniors, faculty, and industry leaders look forward to coming to our symposium every year, we did not want to let them down,” Wiedeman said.   

Organizers had a steep list of tasks to complete and challenges to overcome to coordinate the event, including building a page onto their website; soliciting students to participate and put in additional effort to make a video presentation; coordinating a schedule for the live sessions amid varying schedules of judges, student presenters and volunteers; and addressing technology issues. 

During the live portion of the online presentations, some student presenters referenced the interruption of the completion of their projects due to the closures necessitated by the pandemic. 

Although the 18 projects featured online represented about half the number for a typical in-person showcase, Wiedeman said he feels like the quickly re-tooled digital version of the event was a success, given the circumstances. Up to 20 visitors observed each live presentation and more than 200 people voted for the crowd favorite. 

“We love seeing year in and year out the problems presented to Senior Capstone Teams and their innovative solutions,” Wiedeman said. “This event not only showcases the teams' hard work, but also the capabilities and prowess of the College of Engineering and Applied Science.”

The winning teams included: 

1st Place: "OSCAR," Anna Debrunner, Charles Greenman, and Isaac Mathers, Computer Science; Description: The exploitation of social media has become an important issue in recent years, especially concerning political elections. Although awareness has increased, disinformation has become more pervasive. With another election cycle in the near future, the Open Social Comparison and Analysis for Reddit tool (OSCAR) provides a more informed experience on Reddit regarding its users and communities.

2nd Place: "Cincinnati Light Aircraft Works (CLAW)," Lynn Pickering, Aerospace Engineering; Description: Cincinnati Light Aircraft Works (C.L.A.W.) competed in the advanced class competition of the SAE Aero Design West Competition. The goal was to design an aircraft that operates on the edge of what is possible, devise solutions to complex problems, and use innovative technologies to achieve the goal of winning the competition. The result is a high wing, tricycle gear aircraft, and a total construction which boasts 34.40% carbon fiber by mass. The aircraft drops two external payloads: autonomous gliders and nerf footballs, and one internal payload: water bottles.

3rd Place: "Driver 2.0," Vasu Bhog, Chunjie Pan, and ChaoYang Zhu, Computer Science; Description: Billions of people drive on the road with no assistance from smart devices to aid them, resulting in the continuous increase of crashes over the decades. The project aims to create a simple device that uses computer vision and machine learning to detect distracted drivers and conditions on the road. This will decrease the probability of crashes, as well as increase the awareness of the driver.

Crowd Favorite: "Velkava: An Automated Pour-over Coffee Maker," Ryan Newsome, Zach Douglas, Ben Graff, Emily Hasek, and David Mann, Mechanical Engineering; Description: “Velkava” blends the simplicity of a Keurig with the quality of freshly ground pour-over coffee in a compact counter-top coffee maker utilizing mechatronics, balanced bloom timing via Arduino code, and expert barista advice from local coffee shops.

Featured image at top: Baldwin quad. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.