Monthly Archives: December 2017

Team 17004, remotely sponsored by Regenesis, will be designing a system to harness energy from the waste air created by HVAC systems.

Companies from other states and countries reap the benefits of the UA Engineering Design Program.

Not all of the corporations who sponsor University of Arizona engineering design projects are in Tucson, Arizona. Companies partnering on projects from afar say the experience is worth the hassle. That is, it would be, if there were any hassles.

Regenesis is partnering with a University of Arizona design project for the first time, and Silicon Valley-based Elo Touch is returning to sponsor a project this year. Both projects will be displayed at the next Design Day on April 30, 2018.

An engineer installs a waste-air reclamation system on an HVAC unit. Team 17004 will be working to develop this design further.

Calling In From Canada

“There was literally no downside to us participating in the program,” said project partner Keith Andrews. “That’s just the nature of business today. You don’t really have to be at the same physical location in the same time zone.”

Regenesis is partnering on the 2017-2018 design project “Regenesis Waste Air Recapture.” The system is designed to take waste air from the HVAC systems of large buildings, run it through a fan attached to a generator, and produce energy.

“We’re taking waste air and giving it a purpose,” he said.

As part of the project, Regenesis will install one of its student-developed prototypes on a building at the university. After the project is complete, Regenesis will be able to approach prospective clients with hard data about how the product recaptured energy from waste air and lowered electricity costs.

The UA program was a very cost-efficient method, and it had intangible benefits the company wouldn’t necessarily get from an engineering firm, Andrews said.

“If you say ‘University of Arizona’ to people, there’s some instant recognition. We kind of clear the credibility hurdle instantly.”

Andrews’ advice to other companies considering a remote partnership was the same advice he would give to any company taking on a new project: Develop a roadmap for communication, and find a system that works for your team. For example, Andrews dislikes communicating over email, so tools like Skype — for video phone conferencing — and Basecamp — for file sharing and tracking — have been instrumental.

“We’re enjoying the program and have every reason to believe it’s going to be successful for us, so I’m glad we found it,” he said.

Despite their remote location, Elo sponsored Team 16027’s design of a touchscreen multiuser detection system during the course of last year’s Engineering Design Program.

California Teaming

David Rosenbluth is vice president of components engineering at Elo Touch, the Silicon Valley-based company partnering with the senior design program on a project called “iPad Point of Sale Hardware, Firmware and iOS Application.”

Elo Touch makes touchscreen displays and monitors. The new project the company is sponsoring this year involves producing Apple-approved hardware to connect iPads to point-of-sale items such as cash drawers, scanners and printers.

It’s an area company engineers have been hoping to explore, Rosenbluth said, and the scope and complexity seemed just right for a UA Engineering design project.

Rosenbluth, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the UA in 1985, became involved through the UA’s outreach program to alumni, first serving as a judge at Design Day three years ago. After he learned how affordable and beneficial it was to partner on a project, Elo Touch jumped on board last year.

The affordability of a sponsorship position makes it easy for companies to support the program, Rosenbluth said, adding that many students at the UA are from California, and could be potential future employees.

“It’s a great way to see the talent,” he said.

Elo Touch has weekly calls with its student team, and the company assigned a lead engineer to serve as mentor. He’s available to talk to team members anytime.

Assigning a company mentor who is available to go work with students in person and be present for Design Day is especially important for remote sponsors, Rosenbluth said.

One of his biggest pieces of advice for other companies considering remote sponsorship, besides appointing a mentor, is that a company representatives attend the program’s Open House at the beginning of each academic year to introduce projects and identify students who might be the best fit.

“Sometimes it’s helpful if you can pick out one or two students who have the exact background you need,” he said.

Thanks to the engineers who built modern forms of communication, like instant messaging and video calls, companies can reap the rewards of the Engineering Design Program across miles, time zones and borders.

“Being remote should not intimidate anybody, not today,” Andrews said. “In 2017, that means nothing.”

Team 16012 pose with their turbulence-compensated table mechanism, which earned them the Honeywell-sponsored Excellence in Aerospace Electronic System Design award at Design Day 2017.

Project mentors and Design Day judges with veteran corporate partner tout the benefits for the company, and soon-to-be graduates.

Phoenix-based Honeywell Aerospace has been a regular partner to the UA Engineering Design Program, supporting over 60 projects in the last 10 years. Many of the projects build on students’ work from one year to the next.

The chance to work with a Fortune 100 company is worth each student’s weight in gold, said Marla Peterson, senior technical manager for production support at Honeywell, a frequent judge at Design Day who graduated from the UA with her bachelor’s degree in systems engineering in 1983.

Jessica Carlyle Owens (left) and Andrew Daniel Rocha (right) hold up their $250 team leadership prizes, awarded to them by veteran Design Day sponsor Honeywell during the 2017 event.

“It’s kind of like an introduction, an interview without really being an interview.”

Honeywell engineer Alex Mirzamoghadam, who has been mentoring University of Arizona engineering students on their capstone projects since 2008, added that students’ time with the company is the real deal. Honeywell isn’t making up busywork for them.

“For the students, it’s definitely a good experience,” he said. “It’s a real problem they’re working to solve. It’s not an academic problem.”

Ron Rich, another Design Day judge and UA alumnus, graduated with his bachelor’s degree from the aerospace engineering program in 1982 and now serves as director of engineering for auxiliary power systems at Honeywell. He said it’s not unheard of for the company to patent work that comes out of design projects and acknowledge student contributions in the patent.

Honeywell ends up with new intellectual property, and students earn a serious résumé booster.

“They surprise me all the time in how innovative they can be because they’re not encumbered by predisposed thoughts,” Rich said. “They’re pretty free-thinking.”

For Peterson, it’s exciting to see what students are learning in the classroom. Sometimes, she said, students bring up principles that Honeywell engineers haven’t thought about since they were in college themselves, but that knowledge is exactly what’s needed to solve a problem.

University of Arizona, UA Senior Design Program, Senior Design, Engineering 498

Team 1405’s holographic head-up display earned them both the Honeywell Excellence in Aerospace Electronic System Design Award and the II-VI Optical Systems Award for Best Use of Optical Design and Technology at Design Day 2015.

A Mutual Benefit for Students and Sponsors

Mirzamoghadam is such a big proponent of senior design programs that he co-authored a 2013 paper for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers about the value of iterative student projects.

“Honeywell benefits from a low-cost design,” he said, “and from these students potentially joining Honeywell after they graduate.”

Peterson said it would be great if Honeywell could hire every UA Engineering student with whom the company works, and Rich joked that he’s been accused of hiring too many students from the program.

“I’ve got some really good engineers who have come out of the program, and I’m very impressed,” he said. “They’re coming out better equipped.”

Partnering with the UA gives Honeywell a chance to contribute to the development of the type of employee the company is seeking. That means excellent engineers, of course. It also means engineers with a solid grasp of the economics behind a project, time management skills, and an understanding that the real world is an interdisciplinary place.

“I think the project has really evolved in terms of the intrinsic value. It takes all disciplines to be successful,” he said. “For me, it’s a way of giving back as I progress in my career.”

Team 17026
Team 17026

United Rotorcraft are returning to sponsor Team 17026 in the Engineering Design Program. The team will be developing a firefighting water tank for the S‑70 helicopter.

Second-year participants see added value in supporting projects.

First-year sponsors — wowed by students’ ideas and pleased with new hires — are primed for their second go-rounds in the UA Engineering Design Program.

Aimee Dolmseth, general manager of Control Vision Inc., said that the mini-infrared camera project the company sponsored in the 2015-2016 academic year seemed like a good fit for the program. It was suitable for a team of engineering seniors, but sufficiently complex to pose a challenge for their skills.

“The UA is also a subcontractor for Control Vision sometimes,” she said. “We value our relationship with the university and look for any opportunity to foster and support that relationship.”

The company already employs several UA students and alumni, so its hiring managers are familiar with the talent coming out of the university. In fact, Design Day, the culminating event where students demonstrate their projects, helps them stay on the lookout for it.

“The last time we participated in the Engineering Design Program, we ended up hiring one of the students we worked with, Stephen Nguyen,” Dolmseth said. “So, while we might bring financial resources and a project to the students, the value is reciprocal.”

An Outrageously Valuable Program

Mike Slattery, president of United Rotorcraft and a 1988 graduate from the UA Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, called the program “outrageously valuable.”

“It’s the opportunity for students to work on real live things that have relevance within this industry,” he said. “It’s a fantastic jumpstart into a career.”

Not only does he love being able to help out fellow Wildcats, but he found that, last year, United Rotorcraft and its parent company, Air Methods, benefited from participating in a big way. United Rotorcraft sponsored a project called “Patient Isolation and Transportation System,” in which students developed a method for securely transporting patients with highly infectious diseases. Students needed to consider a setup that could be transported by ground or air; could withstand being dropped, vibrated and shocked; and could function in fluctuating humidity levels and temperatures.

“They did a fantastic job looking at each system,” Slattery said. “They’ll come back with an idea on something and you’ll go ‘Oh, wow, hey, I hadn’t even thought of that.’”

This year, the team is working on an external firefighting tank for S-70 Firehawk helicopters. The tank should make the aircraft more capable of immediate response to fires. This technology is particularly relevant in light of the fires that frequently rage through the Southwest and the growing concerns around climate change, Slattery said.

“I think this has been a great thing. When I went to Design Day last year, these kids really, truly knocked my socks off with what they were able to accomplish.”

Team 17092 are developing an app for the baking industry. They are sponsored by Design Program newcomer Tappetite.

Design project partners appreciate the affordability and interdisciplinary approach of the UA Engineering Design Program.

UA Engineering Design Program partners come in all shapes and sizes. Many of the newest project supporters are young companies looking to expand their portfolios. Some are led by alumni already familiar with the program’s benefits. Others are just discovering the program’s highly competent student teams and affordable engineering solutions.

Keeping Vaccines Cool

Robert Futch, a 2014 University of Arizona graduate, founded the UA Electric Vehicle, or UAEV, Club and led a senior design team for the group designing a universal vehicle hybrid conversion kit before becoming a project mechanical engineer at SunDanzer. SunDanzer is a local company that develops solar-powered refrigeration for off-the-grid medical, household, military and commercial use.

“Years later, I’m working at SunDanzer and we find ourselves needing some fresh minds on a tough problem, a solar-powered vaccine refrigerator,” Futch said.

“We frequently hire students to help with R&D at SunDanzer, but my experience with senior design led me to believe this would be a great opportunity if we were to submit our proposal to this year’s students.”

The project involves finding a more efficient way to keep vaccines cold in areas with unreliable or nonexistent power grids, such as developing nations or places affected by natural disasters.

SunDanzer is excited to see what inventions UA Engineering students will bring to the table on April 30, 2018, at Design Day. Design Day is the culmination of an academic year’s worth of work for interdisciplinary student teams in the Engineering Design Program.

Bringing Overseas App Development Back Home

Kay Diggs is CEO and founder of Tappetite, a website that serves up a marketplace for independent bakers. The UA Engineering Design Program has provided her with a capable team to develop a Tappetite app at an affordable price.

“I’ve had engineers work on it overseas, but they didn’t do a great job. I always wanted to have an American team, but I couldn’t afford it,” she said. “The team members have great résumés and great grades, and I’m very happy with all of them so far.”

It’s still early in the process, but Diggs is already considering participating in the design program next year.

“We may even hire some of the engineers,” she said.

Adding Depth to Laser Project

Colette DeHarpporte is founder of LASER Classroom, which creates products to teach K-12 students about light and lasers. She wanted to develop an app-controlled tabletop laser fountain to demonstrate the effects of shining laser beams through water. A friend suggested that involving students might be an affordable way to connect with great talent.

“I knew the UA was one of the places that has an optical program,” said DeHarpporte. “And I happily discovered that UA had this interdisciplinary design program.”

Having optics students, mechanical engineering students and a software engineering student on her team has been a great fit for her project, and the group of senior engineering students has exceeded her expectations.

“Everyone kind of really brings something unique.”