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The new app for UA Engineering Design Day 2019 has arrived, and it’s ready for download to your iOS or Android smartphone!

Learn about the interdisciplinary projects our teams have been working on all year, including water reclamation projects, an orbiting Earth camera, and even a steampunk cold brew coffee machine.

The app provides information about these and more than 100 other Design Day projects, as well as award descriptions, a full schedule and a map of where to find your favorite projects.

As always, you can also share activity with friends on social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram, directly from the app!

App Store

For iOS devices, like iPhone and iPad

Google Play

For Android devices, like Samsung Galaxy

Dan Klingberg

New Design Program staff member aims to enhance the student experience and involve sponsors early.

The 2018-2019 academic year has heralded several advances for the Engineering Design Program at the University of Arizona, including 10 new interdisciplinary project sponsors and stronger campus partnerships.

In October, the program also introduced Dan Klingberg as its newest team member. As manager of corporate relations, Klingberg cultivates relationships with sponsor companies, whether they’re longtime supporters or brand-new.

“Dan Klingberg’s wealth of knowledge and depth of experience is of huge benefit to the Engineering Design Program team,” said program director Ara Arabyan. “He plays an important role in strengthening and expanding the relationship between the program and our corporate partners.”

A Proud Wildcat Engineer

Klingberg worked for Raytheon for 29 years, so he brings an abundance of industry experience and contacts – including his wife, Cindy, a Raytheon program operations manager, UA alumna and recent Engineering Design Day judge.

He also offers a commitment to optimizing the student experience.

“I’m passionate about helping the students get good projects, because that’s what they remember,” said Klingberg, a 1993 UA electrical engineering alumnus. “When you graduate and you look back, you remember senior design.”

A stalwart UA Engineering supporter himself, Klingberg added this position to his roles as alumnus, active donor and faculty member – he’s been teaching a supply chain management class since January 2018. He likes that teaching lets him hear regular feedback from students about the capstone design program, so he can improve it accordingly.

An Easy Sell and an Unfair Advantage

To Klingberg, selling the idea of sponsoring a project to companies is easy. “They’re getting a team of engineers for nine months at a relatively low cost,” he said.

His focus for improving the program is on helping companies get involved earlier, perhaps by connecting them with first-year students and maintaining a relationship through internships, co-ops and senior capstone projects all the way through to graduation.

“I envision a program that would create a pipeline for senior design projects,” he said. “Every year, there could be a set of guaranteed projects from companies.”

By working more closely with sponsors, he also hopes to gain information to help students prepare for positions at specific companies.

“It might help the students to know a company like Amazon wants them to take certain electives,” Klingberg said. “They can get some guidance from a company about what courses to take. I want our students to have an unfair advantage going into industry.”

Project Title: Microfluidic System for Determination of Platelet Stiffness

Team 18071 Members:
Patarajarin Akarapipad, biomedical engineering
Courtney Comrie, biomedical engineering
Sean Copeland, biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering
Cody Thivener, biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering
Benjamin Weiss, biomedical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

Courtney Comrie, Patarajarin Akarapipad, and Cody Thivener perform photolitography for their microfluidic chips.

Portable, Accessible Point-of-Care Device

Many medications and implantable medical devices come with side effects. Some affect the mechanical properties of platelets in the blood, leaving people susceptible to clots when their cells are stressed. Because blood clots can lead to heart attack and stroke, medical researchers sometimes need to determine the stiffness of cells such as platelets to minimize these risks.

They do this through dielectrophoresis, a process that deforms cells by subjecting them to electricity. Scientists then use imaging technology to see how much the cells deformed at specific voltages and to determine their thickness.

“The stiffness of the cell is a determinant of whether the platelet becomes activated and then leads to blood clots,” said Dr. Marvin Slepian, associate head for clinical and industrial affairs in the UA Department of Biomedical Engineering and sponsor of five 2018-19 Engineering Design Program projects. “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a point-of-care device that could measure the change in individual cell stiffness right as the patient goes through the experience?”

Zapping Platelets for Diagnostics and Research

Team 18071 is creating a compact cell deformation system that can subject platelets to dielectrophoresis to cause deformation, image the deformation and ultimately determine the thickness of the cells.

“It has a lot of potential in diagnostics, but a lot of potential is also in research,” said team lead Courtney Comrie. “If you’re researching a new medical device or a new medication, you can see how it affects platelets.”

Current dielectrophoresis machines take up entire sections of laboratories, but the team is scaling the device down and making it portable. At just over a foot tall and just under a foot wide, it’s designed to fit easily on a lab bench. The device will also display data on a regular smartphone screen.

“We’ll have an attachment that will hold the phone in place so it can look through the microscope at the right angle,” Comrie said. “We want to use the smartphone camera directly. It’s very accessible – everyone has one.”

Taking Their Research on the Road

Slepian suggested the team gain experience submitting and presenting their research. So, not only did they submit a summary and present at the UA College of Medicine’s 2019 Data Blitz in February, but they’re also in the process of applying to the ASAIO’s 65th annual conference as part of the organization’s young innovators initiative. With their initial proposal accepted, they’re working on a final report for the conference’s 7th annual student design competition.

“It’s been positive seeing our effort actually work and reaping the benefits,” Comrie said. “I think it’s been a good experience to put in these applications to these conferences. It’s validating the work we’re doing.”

Learn more about the project, and the team’s progress, at Engineering Design Day 2019 on April 29.

All-woman team of senior engineering students creates bruise age measurement device for use in child abuse and domestic violence cases.

“The forensic ability to accurately determine the age of a bruise has long evaded the medical community, which hasn’t been able to answer questions about how old bruises are with any degree of accuracy,” said Dr. Dale Woolridge, director of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center and professor of emergency medicine, pediatrics, and chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arizona.

A man and a woman adjusting a replica of a skeletal foot inside a machine.

Project Title: Robotic Gait Simulator

Team 18077 Members:
Miguel Angel Osorio, mechanical engineering
Michael Polenick, electrical and computer engineering
Olivia Talarico, biomedical engineering
Harrison Thurgood, mechanical engineering
Genevieve Wahlert, biomedical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

A man and a woman adjusting a replica of a skeletal foot inside a machine.

Dr. Daniel Latt and Olivia Talarico operate a robotic gait simulator.


Robotic Foot Walks Implant Design Toward Real-World Application

Surgical implants can vastly improve patients’ quality of life, allowing people with damaged joints to walk, for example. But before surgeons perform the procedures to place these implants in humans, they need to understand how the implants will operate in the context of a walking, working limb.

“It’s not just taking a cadaver limb and applying body weight load to it,” said Dr. Daniel Latt, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and biomedical engineering. “All the other tendons in the foot impact the force on the foot, so it’s important to create a realistic model of it.”

That’s exactly what he’s asked Team 18077 to do, in a continuation of the project he sponsored during the 2017-2018 school year. This year’s team created a more realistic model by including more tendons – adding three to the original design’s four – and incorporating a treadmill into the setup to create a more natural sense of movement. The actuators, or the parts of the device responsible for movement, can move more quickly and handle a heavier load. The final version of their project will involve an actual cadaver foot.

This is Latt’s fifth year sponsoring an Engineering Design Program project, and he enjoys reaping the benefits of an interdisciplinary team.

“We want to involve biomedical engineering students in the lab,” he said. “And usually I choose projects that have various components – a mechanical component, an electrical component, a systems component. It makes people reach outside their inherent discipline.”

Measuring Sole Signals

The students agree that this multidisciplinary project has been an excellent learning experience. Most have a biomedical or mechanical engineering background, and the project has a large electrical engineering element.

“If you think about it from a biological standpoint, what controls your limbs?” said Michael Polenick, the team’s only electrical and computer engineering major. “Electrical and mechanical signals.”

The team is focused on creating a device that imitates walking as accurately as possible. By carefully documenting their work, they hope to leave next year’s team with enough information to simulate running, hopping or squatting.

At Engineering Design Day on April 29, they plan to show a video of a model foot “walking” on a treadmill and wearing shoes equipped with insoles that measure force. A screen will display the data, including a red spike each time the heel strikes the ground.

“I chose this project because, well, who doesn’t want to make a robotic foot?” Polenick said.

Project Title: Additive Manufacturing Process and Dimensional ControlHoneywell logo

Team 18014 Members:
Juan Carlos Martinez, mechanical engineering
Zachary Minnick, industrial engineering
Zachary Ondrejka, mechanical engineering
Lucas Stolberg, materials science and engineering
Morgan Victoria Swanson, materials science and engineering
Kathleen Van Atta, material sciences and engineering

Sponsor: Honeywell Aerospace

Team 18014 is working on mitigating distortions in 3D-printed parts with Honeywell. Front row, left to right: J.C. Martinez and Morgan Swanson. Back row, left to right: Zach Minnick, Lucas Stolburg and Zach Ondrejka.


Honeywell Aerospace is one of the most loyal partners of the UA Engineering Design Program, having supported more than 70 projects in the last 11 years, including 12 in the 2018-2019 academic year alone – the most projects a single company has sponsored throughout the life of the program and in a single year.

For one of those projects, Team 18014 is making a turbine blade using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, using metallic materials on a Honeywell-owned advanced 3D printer. Creating parts layer by layer allows engineers to produce complex designs quickly and at low cost compared to traditional manufacturing methods. With modern 3D printers, many printed parts are usable directly for their intended function even in demanding conditions.

“Within the additive manufacturing industry, especially with metal printing for aerospace applications, the geometry of parts can be quite complex,” said mechanical engineering major Zach Ondrejka. “This offers a lot of benefits, but one of the big drawbacks is controlling distortions when printing parts.”

Down With Distortions!

The team’s project is centered on accounting for these distortions, caused by heating, melting, solidification and cooling during additive manufacturing. Their goal is to make sure their final product comes within 0.005 inches of the dimensions and geometry of their design parameters.

“When you print it, it’s not going to conform to the exact geometry of the design,” said Suresh Sundarraj, one of Team 18014’s corporate sponsors. “The team’s job is to figure out what we need to do on the simulation side to compensate for these distortions. How closely can they achieve the design as in the original CAD file?”

The team started by running simulations of how the blade would turn out if printed at different orientations – does turning the design on its side so that a different feature prints first reduce distortion? Though they knew from their research to expect deviations, they were surprised by just how much the printed part deformed after cooling – up to 0.036 inches at some points.

Sundarraj advised the team at a meeting: It’s more important to achieve the end goal than the plan. Have a flexible plan, make sure everyone knows how to use the software on their own and watch the simulations as they’re running to see where distortions start to occur.

The team members chose the project because 3D printing is one of today’s fastest-developing and most promising manufacturing methods. Ondrejka learned in one of his classes about how 3D printing could improve the efficiency of engines in the aerospace industry by allowing the manufacture of turbine blades with built-in cooling networks, for example.

“Additive manufacturing is pretty much the next step for manufacturing, because it gives you so much customizability,” said team lead and industrial engineering major Zachary Minnick. “Metal 3D printing is fairly rare to see, so I was really interested to dive into that.”

A Staunch Supporter

Honeywell’s partnership with the University of Arizona continues to grow: The company is also donating a 3D printer to the College of Engineering this summer for future use by students and the Engineering Design Program. Come and see the results of Team 18014’s experimentation – and the other 11 Honeywell teams – at Engineering Design Day 2019 on April 29.

The project that took the top prize at Engineering Design Day 2017 was a drone designed to pollinate date palms. The College of Engineering has teamed up with the Eller College of Management’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship and the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture to help participating students create a startup to market the drone as part of the Go to Market Initiative.

Project Title: Dynamic Bioreactor for Engineered Cartilage Tissue

Team 18066 Members:
Dallas Altamirano, biomedical engineering
Efren Barron, biomedical engineering
Sam Freitas, biomedical engineering
Xinyi Gu, electrical engineering
Danielle Larson, biosystems engineering
Trinny Tat, biomedical engineering

Project Title: Virtual Reality System for Realistic Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training

Team 18072 Members:
Hannah Bergeron, biomedical engineering
Jesse Gilmer, electrical and computer engineering
Gisselle Gonzalez, biomedical engineering
Brianna Hudson, biosystems engineering
Miguel Peña, biomedical engineering
Jimmy Tran, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

A woman wearing a virtual reality headset kneeling over a CPR practice dummy.

Hannah Bergeron of Team 18072 tests their design of a virtual reality CPR training system.


Gore’s Long History With the College of Engineering

W.L. Gore & Associates has been a longtime friend of the College of Engineering. They sponsored Engineering Design Program projects for many years, and also sponsor the W.L. Gore & Associates prize for the most creative solution at Design Day. The company has made an annual gift since the 2013-2014 academic year to subsidize biomedical engineering capstone projects, and sponsors the freshman-year Solar Oven Throw Down.

“We feel that supporting things that enhance the student experience is really important,” said Ryan Gapp, current Gore college champion for the UA and a 2014 graduate of the university’s biomedical engineering program. “One of the things we really like is that this program focuses on the design effort in a team. At Gore, we generally work in small teams of about five to 10 people. By supporting this, we’re hoping the students get more of those skills that make them ready for the workplace — not just at Gore, but at other companies too.”

Teams 18066 and 18072, both working on biomedical projects that exemplify Gore’s values of teamwork, strong communication and creative problem-solving, are just two examples of the student groups the company’s gift supports.

Team 18066’s dynamic bioreactor for engineered cartilage tissue.

Cartilage Cats

When cartilage in the human body is damaged, it doesn’t grow back. Scientists are investigating how to replenish lost cartilage through stem cells, or undifferentiated cells that haven’t developed a specific purpose. However, cartilage grown from stem cells isn’t as strong as cartilage in the human body because it’s not used to supporting weight. Team 18066 is developing a bioreactor that will place a load on the stem cells while they are developing into cartilage cells.

“Applying the load helps the stem cells choose to turn into cartilage cells, rather than something like a muscle cell,” said team lead and biomedical engineering major Dallas Altamirano. “It helps them align and interconnect like fibers with firmer membranes, so if you were to put the cells into a person, they would be used to feeling those loads.”

The team went through several designs before they found one that most closely replicated the way weight is borne by living tissue, and one of their biggest challenges has been determining how to measure strain on the tiny scaffolds that are host to the stem cells. But the team says the challenge is worth it.

“This is beneficial for basically anyone who has cartilage damage, whether it’s from disease or trauma,” Altamirano said.

Learning CPR in VR

Though CPR can be lifesaving, it has to be performed correctly to be effective. Team 18072 is developing a virtual reality system paired with a physical CPR dummy that will provide feedback to users on their CPR techniques.

“We envision that the device will have a training mode where you go through all the steps you would in a CPR class, like checking for responsiveness, checking a subject’s breathing and calling 911 or making sure someone else does,” said biomedical engineering major and team lead Gisselle Gonzalez. “Then, you go through compression simulation and have a debrief where you get feedback.”

They’re basing the system’s standards as closely as they can on the American Heart Association’s standards of 2- to 2.4-inch-deep chest compression at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute. Integrating a real-life CPR mannequin into the virtual reality system has been a challenge, as has creating software that can track hand movements to within 0.1 inches.

“This has a lot of potential to help a lot of people,” said biomedical engineering major Hannah Bergeron. “And I’ve never touched Leap Motion, the VR software we’re using, in my life. It’s been a good challenge to learn how to code.”

A man in a suit standing next to five students wearing blue polo shirts and holding a giant check for $1,500
A man in a suit standing next to five students wearing blue polo shirts and holding a giant check for $1,500

Frank Broyles presents the Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award to Team 17048 at Design Day 2018.


Frank Broyles graduated from the University of Arizona with a mining engineering degree in 1968. He went on to earn his law degree from the University of Texas, and has been working as an attorney for the last 45 years.

He’s been involved in the Engineering Design Program for the last several years, first as a judge at Design Day, and then going on to sponsor the Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award, which recognizes a team that resolved a significant ethical issue, such as settling a conflict or resisting the temptation to take a shortcut. This year, he’s sponsoring a student project for the first time.

Though he’s had an interest in sponsoring a project for years, his career as a lawyer didn’t present many engineering challenges. It was in another part of his life, as an avid golfer, that he found a problem that needed solving.

A New Par-t of the Engineering Design Program

On par-3 holes, crews of people head out early every morning to mark places where the holes should be dug on the course, and then measure the distance between the holes and the areas where golfers tee off. They record the distances on signs so golfers can use the information to gauge how far to hit balls and which clubs to use. However, the distances are often off by 10 to 20 yards.

“It just leaves a bad taste in the mouths of golfers who are thinking, ‘I hit with a 7-iron because it said 165 yards when it was really 140, so I hit over and the ball went into the water,’” Broyles said. “But a drone can measure these distances accurately. And the lightbulb just went off in my head: I see so many drone projects here at Design Day.”

Broyles asked Team 18028 to create a drone system to measure these distances and paint the points on the green where holes should be dug. His No. 1 priority: The drones must be designed so that, even if they crash onto the green, they won’t splatter paint everywhere.

He’s flown out from Texas to meet with the team several times, and has twice even brought along a golf agronomy expert from his favorite resort to answer their questions. So far, he says the students have blown him away. Judging from the team’s critical design review, Broyles estimated an outside consulting firm would charge $50,000 to $60,000 to finish the project.

“There ought to be a waiting list for people and companies to do senior design projects, “ he said. “Because these kids do such a good job, and it’s great value for the money.”

Team 18004 is developing a greenhouse SMART watering system for Bayer.

Recruiters take notice of University of Arizona engineering graduates – and one of the reasons is the know-how seniors gain through their capstone design projects.

On Aug. 23, 2018, students met with representatives looking for the right team to develop projects that parallel real life at the design program’s annual open house. More than 85 of those projects will be on display at this year’s Design Day in the Student Union Ballroom and on the UA Mall.

Plan to join us April 29 for Engineering Design Day 2019! Contact us for details about how to attend.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, Heather Hilzendeger came to the UA and earned her Master of Business Administration in 2000.

She was an engineering program manager at Honeywell, a career she fostered for more than 30 years before retiring and becoming a lecturer in the UA Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Hilzendeger is now taking on a new role as mentor for the Engineering Design Program, tackling capstone project challenges with the students during the 2018-2019 academic year.

What inspired you to become a mentor in the first place?

As a female engineer beginning my career in the 1970s, I sometimes felt like an outsider in the work environment, as if I didn’t really belong with the group of my peers. I saw this mentoring assignment as an opportunity to be a real-life example to current students that engineers and engineering leaders are a diverse group.

I am enjoying being a part of the university and getting the opportunity to watch the students develop over the semester. The students definitely have risen to meet challenges. The teams work with the skills they have, which means they do not necessarily start the project with all the skills the project demands. The students are willing to step up, and learn new tools and new skills to fill the gaps.

How does being on a mentored design team help students in the professional world?

A few of the students in my section have already commented to me that they have been able to draw on their understanding of the standard engineering process taught in this course to successfully respond to questions presented to them in their ongoing job interviews. In addition to teaching them a robust engineering development process, this course provides valuable lessons on working with and developing team members, and on giving and receiving constructive criticism.

Describe an aha! moment you experienced while mentoring a design team.

Some students had a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look when initially launching their projects. It has been rewarding to see them learn to break the project down into manageable parts and to move forward with concrete designs, which will hopefully result in working prototypes in the spring.

What advice would you offer to others considering mentoring a design team?

I recommend it. It brings a sense of youthfulness to career engineers who may have forgotten how it feels to be a college student.

How do employers benefit when they hire students who have been on a mentored senior design team?

Teamwork is a biggie, and being aware that large, complicated projects require that engineers work not so much like lone tinkerers/inventors in the garage, but more as a well-orchestrated group with each engineer contributing their part to a larger goal.

Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.

I haven’t climbed Mount Everest, but when one considers how much of a geek I have been in my professional career, it may be a surprise to learn that my personal hobbies tend to venture far away from high tech.

I enjoy working with fiber arts in my free time. A few years ago, I completed a master’s certificate specializing in hand-spinning fibers into yarn from Olds College. I enjoy starting with natural unprocessed raw materials — such as wool shorn from locally raised sheep, cotton gathered from local fields and cocoons harvested from silk worms — and then processing, dying and spinning the fibers into unique yarns for use in weaving and knitting projects for my home and family.

Autonomous trucks follow pre-programmed directions during a demonstration at Caterpillar’s Mining Technology Demonstration & Program.

Eighteen engineering students from the University of Arizona attended this year’s demonstration.

Nearly 75 miners attended Caterpillar’s Mining Technology Demonstration & Program this fall, where they got an inside look into the future of the mining industry. Eighteen engineering students from the University of Arizona, many of whom represent the future of mining themselves, were among them.

At the two-day event at Caterpillar’s Tinaja Hills Demonstration & Learning Center in Green Valley, Arizona, the company showcased the capabilities of their MineStar suite of hardware, software and services. For example, after a hydraulic shovel loaded up an autonomous Cat 793F truck with dirt, the pre-programmed vehicle traveled to a dump site, stopped in the right place, and spent the correct amount of time with the truck bed raised to dump out all the material before driving away.

The truck also showed off its safety features — including a 64-laser lidar system that gathers millions of data points a second — when it came to a complete stop to avoid hitting a light vehicle and a mannequin placed in its path. One guest had the chance to use the “A-stop” or “all-stop” device: a controller carried by on-site personnel that can stop all trucks within 984 feet with the push of a button.

Caterpillar has a long-standing relationship with the University of Arizona, including a rewarding partnership with the Engineering Design Program. The company and the UA also join forces on Mining 360, a certificate degree program for mining professionals, which just celebrated the graduation of its second cohort.

Caterpillar’s autonomous vehicles on display.

Project Title: Mounted-Gemstone Weight Calculating Device

Team 18002 Members:
Ludovico Borghi, electrical and computer engineering and optical sciences and engineering
Emily Elizabeth Calara English, biosystems engineering
Matthew Heger, electrical and computer engineering
Meghan Elizabeth Ryterski, mechanical engineering
Chengyu Zhu, materials science and engineering

Sponsor: The RealReal

An Invaluable Method for Accurate Gem Measurement 

Reselling pieces of jewelry involves measuring the gemstones mounted in them to determine their worth, a process currently done by hand with tools like calipers and millimeter gauges. This means the measurement of a jewel can vary from one business to the next, depending on the skill of the person doing the assessment.

When it comes to valuable gems like diamonds, even very small differences in measurement can lead to huge differences in appraised value. The RealReal — the largest retailer of luxury consignment goods, including jewelry, in the United States — is partnering with the Engineering Design Program and asking students to build a mounted-gemstone weight calculating device to minimize the potential for inconsistent appraisal.

“It’s something that had never been done before in our industry: creating an instrument to identify the carat weight of gemstones in a mounted piece of jewelry without unmounting it,” said Loretta Castoro, master gemologist at The RealReal and the team’s industry mentor.

“We come across pieces every day that are brought to us, and when we measure them and calculate their weight, it will be totally different from the appraisal.”

Step Aside, Ocean’s 8, for Desert’s 5

The RealReal project team.

The students plan for the new device to take photos of the mounted gemstone from multiple angles and use the photos to create a 3D image of the entire gem, including the parts covered by mounting. A simple software interface will allow users to select the gem type — for example, ruby or diamond — and the software will calculate the stone’s carat weight according to its density.

Team lead Meghan Ryterski said she was drawn to the project because it was an opportunity to learn how to use new technology — and it sounded cool and heist-y to her.

“I don’t know if you saw ‘Ocean’s 8,’ but we’re basically doing exactly what they did in the movie for our project,” she said, smiling.

Mentor Brings RealReal to Program, Makes X-ray Problems Transparent

The initial project proposal suggested the students use lidar technology to create the system, but the team is exploring other options as well.

While their college mentor, Bob Messenger, provides priceless expertise in mechanical engineering and project management, geosciences professor Bob Downs has been another invaluable resource. For example, when the team briefly considered using X-ray to measure the gems, he had the gemology knowledge to let them know why it wouldn’t work: X-ray could change the color of the stones.

Downs first met some of The Real Real’s representatives at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, one of the gem industry’s biggest events, and was impressed by their mission.

“There are incredible problems that this company wants to solve that are extremely academically oriented,” he said. “The community’s problems are exactly the same as ours in academia.”

The RealReal is endowing a professorship in the Department of Geosciences, but they also wanted to get involved more directly with students. Downs, who has two sons in the College of Engineering, suggested the Engineering Design Program. It’s been a huge success so far.

“I love the team,” Castoro said. “They’re absolutely amazing. It’s been a pleasure to work with the university and the students.”

Project Title: Grasshopper Harvester

Team 18025 Members:
Savannah Marie Brown, biosystems engineering
Weicheng Li, mechanical engineering
Devin Patrick Murphy, biomedical engineering
Sean Rowlands, mechanical engineering
Hannah Grace Whetzel, mechanical engineering
Cooper Austin Wynn, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Entomology

Project Title: Robotic Weeding Machine for Leaf Lettuce CropsUA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering logo

Team 18029 Members:
Mark Jendrisak, biosystems engineering and mechanical engineering
Eunmo Kang, optical sciences and engineering
Connor John McCoy, biosystems engineering
Jesus Rene Nevarez, electrical and computer engineering
Tristan Stevens, biosystems engineering
Damian Willer, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Biosystems Engineering

Two UA faculty members are sponsoring senior design projects that lie at the intersection of engineering expertise and agricultural applications.

From left to right: Savannah Brown, Cooper Wynn, Weicheng Li, Sean Rowlands and Devin Murphy stand around their design for a grasshopper harvester, which they created with the help of fellow Engineering Design Program student Hannah Whetzel and professor Goggy Davidowitz.

Grab That Grasshopper!

Goggy Davidowitz, professor of entomology at the University of Arizona, has a vested interest in grasshoppers. In the long term, he’d like to convince ranchers to raise grasshoppers instead of cows, and to see the insects — which are 12 times more efficient at converting grass to energy than cows — become a common source of protein for humans.

For the time being, however, farmers regard grasshoppers simply as pests that eat their crops. Davidowitz views harvesting the grasshoppers as a win because it eliminates the need for farmers to use unhealthy insecticides. His engineering design team is creating a machine that can capture grasshoppers in an agricultural field.

“Different species of grasshoppers jump differently,” Davidowitz said. “That means that from day to day, how high and far they jump will vary. How do you address that from an engineering perspective?”

He turned to the Engineering Design Program, hoping his team could use their talents to come up with a creative solution. So far, he’s taken the students to a local farmer’s grasshopper-infested field to test out some preliminary designs, given them a primer on grasshopper biology, and been altogether impressed with their enthusiasm and work ethic.

“I’m absolutely coming back to the program next year — that is a given,” he said. “On top of that, I have two other projects that I’m going to try to convince students to join.”

Weed Whacking, Not Lettuce Whacking

In the vegetable industry, workers remove the weeds around lettuce leaves, or spray them with herbicides, by hand. However, the lettuce industry is currently facing a shortage of workers, and hand labor in Arizona and California — where most of the country’s lettuce is grown — can be expensive.

Mark Siemens, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, is asking an engineering design team to build a robotic weeding machine for leaf lettuce crops. The machine will include a camera and a software system that allows farmers to monitor the device remotely.

“The students are going to develop a user interface with a touch screen and a camera, so you’ll get an image of a tray of weeds and crop plants, and you can select the weeds by hand. Then the machine will target the locations you select,” he said.

Eventually, Siemens would like to develop a version of this device that uses artificial intelligence to identify and kill weeds, but this group of students is focusing on the weed-killing aspect of the project, which is no small task.

“The challenge here is not only to not injure the crop plant and control the weeds, but to do so at a work rate that’s commercially viable,” Siemens said.

He jokes that he gave his students “pretty much an impossible problem” because researchers have been working on the question of how to kill weeds without harming plants for decades.

“I haven’t been able to crack the puzzle, so part of my motivation for doing a senior design project was to get some fresh thoughts on how to build such a machine,” he said. “The senior design program is an excellent opportunity for someone with a limited budget to make some progress on a project of interest.”

A group of six students, four men in the back row, two women in the front row, posing for a group shot
A group of six students, four men in the back row, two women in the front row, posing for a group shot

The Bayer U.S. Team. Front row, left to right: Veronica Paz, Syntia Bebongchu. Second row, left to right): Hernani Fernandes, Troy Petty, Eric Romero, Joshua Vanderwall.

Engineering Design Program newcomers explain what inspired their partnerships.

Organizations that collaborate with the University of Arizona Engineering Design Program consistently report that the program offers them an opportunity to explore projects they might not otherwise be able to pursue, and to dive into the rich talent pool at the UA College of Engineering. This year, several new companies will reap the program’s benefits.

Elbit Systems

The Elbit Systems team. From left to right: Scott Zigray, Danelle Villanueva, Carson Lempa, Keith Durkin, Aaron Silvers.

Elbit Systems creates technologies for defense and commercial industries. This year, they’re asking their team of UA engineers to create an eye-safe short-wave infrared illuminator — essentially a flashlight that operates on short- and mid-wave infrared, rather than the longer wavelengths most infrared flashlights operate on.

“Those [long-wave infrared beams] are easily detectable, and can give away the position of the person who’s using it,” said Matthias Whitney, a principal electro-optics engineer at Elbit and the industry mentor for the project. “A lot of newer infrared goggles operate in the short-wave infrared band, so by having illuminations in this wavelength, the flashlight user wearing infrared goggles can see the beam without someone else detecting it.”

Matthias and his wife, Megan Whitney, both graduated from the University of Arizona in 2009, she in mechanical engineering and he in optical sciences. He’s made frequent visits back to the UA as a recruiter, but he encouraged his company to increase its involvement by sponsoring a project.

“If we wish to remain competitive, we need to continually be attracting new talent — such talent as is found at University of Arizona,” Matthias said.


Lisa Jones, an engineering site lead at Bayer U.S., is a UA alumna and a former employee of Roche — a longtime partner with the Engineering Design Program. When she started her job at Bayer, one of her priorities was to set the company up with a senior design team.

So, the corporation has tasked a team of engineers with creating a SMART – self-monitoring analytics and reporting technology — watering system to distribute the exact right amount of water to each individual plant in a greenhouse.

Greenhouse plant watering is labor-intensive and often inconsistent, and while some automated watering systems already exist, this one will be uniquely interactive and cloud-based. Humans can monitor the system remotely from a cellphone and track how much water crops receive and any problems the system encounters.

“This is one of the pie-in-the-sky things we have not been able to have in our greenhouse,” Jones said. “We decided to let the students have a go at it, to see what they could come up with.”


TuSimple, a company developing autonomous commercial truck technology, is asking a student team to create an integrated image processing unit for automotive cameras.

Most autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles today have several cameras that send their video frames to one central computing system, which then processes the images and keeps track of objects around the vehicle. But this powerful central processor is expensive and can cause a single point of failure for all the cameras. Building the processing function into the cameras could mitigate these problems.

TuSimple has worked with the College of Engineering already, collaborating with interim Dean Larry Head, director of the Transportation Research Institute.

“We just enjoy the University of Arizona relationship,” said Robert Brown, director of public affairs at TuSimple. “We have our solution, but we’re curious to see if students will think of something outside the box.”


Jot Powers and Greg Vannoni, the industry mentors for PayPal, are both UA alumni. Powers earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1993 and Vannoni completed the same in 2006. PayPal is sponsoring a “one-click food bank” project: essentially a software system that will allow food banks to manage inventory, track donations and coordinate volunteer efforts.

The idea for their project came from PayPal’s Opportunity Hack, a weekendlong program that connects nonprofits with students and industry professionals who work together to solve nonprofit tech problems. The concept of creating a system to help food banks run more smoothly has come up often in recent years.

Powers and Vannoni both thought the seniors at their alma mater could deliver, especially after volunteering as judges at Engineering Design Day 2018 and seeing the range of projects.

“We came here because we both have a bias toward engineering, and because we think a solution from a passionate team can help the community,” Powers said.

UA alumnus Steve Larimore graduated with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1983, then earned his Master of Business Administration from the Eller College of Management in 1989.

Larimore retired from Raytheon after a 32-year career, serving as a mechanical engineering design department manager for Raytheon’s Precision Control Mechanisms and Harness/Interconnect, Missile Defense Systems, and Air and Land Warfare Systems.

He has been a mentor for the Engineering Design Program for two years, and was a sponsor for 13 years.

What inspired you to become a mentor in the first place?

I have a passion for solving engineering problems and helping young people to be successful. Being a mentor allows me to do both.

How have you benefited from the experience of being a mentor?

I have had several mentors throughout my life, and they have all helped me increase my knowledge. Probably the most important mentors in my life are my parents. My father is an engineer and my mother is a school teacher, so it is not surprising that today I am helping educate engineers.

How does being on a mentored design team help students in the professional world?

Mentors in the Engineering Design Program help the students use their knowledge to solve real-world problems. The mentors teach the students an engineering process that can be used on any engineering design problem. It is the process used in the professional world, so when the students enter the workforce, they will be familiar with the approach.

What’s your favorite team or project you have mentored, and why?

This is a hard question. I have enjoyed most of the projects I have mentored. I guess the ones that have been the most meaningful to me have been the ones that affect human health. I enjoyed mentoring the team that created the active elbow orthosis and the team that created the precision diagnostic reagent package. The active elbow orthosis helps people recover from elbow surgery and the precision diagnostic reagent package helps doctors diagnose cancer more quickly.

Describe an aha! moment you experienced while mentoring a design team.

The students, for the most part, are unaware of the real-world requirements. They don’t understand or consider that there are lead times for almost anything that you buy or have made. They do not appreciate that there are standard parts that, if you don’t make use of and instead make a unique one, your cost and lead time both increase.

The mentors help the students with their project schedules, making sure they have considered lead times and helping the students understand that it is imperative they use standard parts as often as possible.

What advice would you offer to others considering mentoring a design team?

You must have a passion for helping students succeed and be willing to put in lots of hours. The hours won’t be a problem if you have the passion.

How do employers benefit when they hire students who have been on a mentored senior design team?

The students are trained in a universal design approach that allows them to quickly adapt the employers’ design approaches. They have real-life design experience and they know how to work as part of a team, define requirements, create a schedule, meet deadlines, assess risks and implement contingency plans.

The Engineering Design Program does a wonderful job of preparing students for the work environment. As a former employer, I could see the difference between new hires that had been through a program like this one and those who had not. The new hires that had been through a program like the Engineering Design Program adapted and began contributing more quickly than the others.

Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.

In 1982, I was a junior in mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona. At that time, there was no interdisciplinary engineering capstone class. Each department had its own.

Each year, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers sponsored a design competition that all the students in the mechanical engineering capstone class participated in. The winner and the first runner-up had the opportunity to represent the University of Arizona at a regional ASME competition, and the local ASME group paid the travel expenses.

The 1982 regional ASME competition was held in Hawaii. ASME did not have any rules that prohibited a junior from entering the competition, though traditionally only seniors entered, so I entered. I believe I am the only University of Arizona junior who ever won this competition.

What else would you like us to know?

I am a Wildcat for life. Both my parents and all four of my children and their spouses are alumni of the University of Arizona. We love the university.

The UA College of Engineering’s seniors earned $35,000 in awards from Raytheon, Microsoft, PayPal, Caterpillar and more on April 30 at Design Day 2018!

Our Flickr collection tells the tale of student success in pictures.

Grasshoppers are 12 times more efficient at converting grass to energy than cows, and could become a major source of protein for humans

Senior engineering students and representatives from local and international companies and departments across the University of Arizona met among greenhouses, grasshoppers and drone ground control systems at the UA Engineering Design Program’s annual open house on Aug. 23, 2018.

Students and sponsors were there for the same reason: to meet their match. While 463 College of Engineering seniors came armed with elevator pitches to impress potential mentors, the companies and organizations — sponsoring 85 projects among them — brought informational material and displays of past projects to attract the college’s top talent.

The Paragon 28-sponsored laser-guided system for ankle replacement surgery won the top prize at Engineering Design Day 2018.

Not Their First Rodeo

Many of the attendees at this year’s open house are returning to the program after commissioning projects in years past.

Paragon 28 sponsored a laser-guided system for ankle replacement surgery, which won the top prize at Engineering Design Day 2018 and left the company pleased as well. Company project engineer Frank Barmes said while he was representing at open house, other Paragon 28 employees were showing the apparatus to a surgeon.

This year, Paragon 28’s project — a device to prepare the ankle joint for ankle fusion surgery — attracted a long line of students.

“We are looking at implementing this project internally as soon as the students are done with it,” Barmes said. “The feasibility the students attained on last year’s project made it apparent to us that we should continue participating in the program.”

Johnny Lyons Baral, a senior applications engineer at Hexagon Mining and 2014 graduate of the UA Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, said Hexagon was happy to come back for its second year.

“We see the value in this for our company when we have projects that maybe we don’t have the time or resources for, but it’s something students can do for us,” he said. “It’s a good support for our company to try something out that we might not do otherwise.”

Staunch Engineering Design Day partner Honeywell is sponsoring a dozen projects for 2019.

Loyal partner Honeywell is sponsoring a dozen projects — an all-time high for any company in the program’s history. They range from a device that recycles exhaled carbon dioxide for spacecraft to a method for reducing leaks in gas turbines.

First Timers

Some project representatives — ranging from pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer, sponsoring a greenhouse smart watering system, to PayPal, sponsoring a one-click food bank — were dipping their toes into the waters of the Engineering Design Program for the first time.

Goggy Davidowitz, an associate professor of entomology at the UA, invited students to step inside a large mesh structure to hang out with some grasshoppers. Davidowitz is on a mission to make grasshoppers — which are 12 times more efficient at converting grass to energy than cows — a major source of protein for humans. When he approached biosystems engineering faculty about designing a grasshopper harvester to pull grasshoppers from farmers’ fields for processing into protein, they suggested the Engineering Design Program.

“The initial idea was to get investors and have them put in a million dollars, and hire engineers,” he said. “But this seemed like a lot more fun. We’re using student creativity and talent to try to develop it.”

Alumni Come Home

Some UA alumni who presented at Engineering Design Day themselves just a few years ago are now on the other side of the table, representing companies as sponsor mentors.

Mechanical engineer Timur Taljanovic completed his capstone design project in 2017 through Ventana Medical Systems, a business he’d always dreamed of working for. At this year’s open house, he represented Ventana, which is supporting three projects, as an employee. He remembers his time in the Engineering Design Program fondly.

“This is one of the most developmental things a student can ever do,” he said. “It’s the first time that you apply the theory that you’re learning to a real-world application.”

Brandon Hellman, a PhD student in optical sciences, is sponsoring a hyperspectral imaging smartphone attachment, which can be used to detect fake currency, spot photo fraud and investigate chemical composition.

“The goal is to show we can make a small attachment to detect stuff that was previously hard to detect,” said Hellman, who said his time as an undergraduate in the program in 2015 showed him what UA engineers were capable of. “Students put in a lot of time and effort — and were quite often able to produce amazing results.”

After meeting face-to-face, seniors and sponsoring organizations all ranked their preferences on who they want to work with, and an algorithm assigned groups of students to each project. Now, the teams begin work, to be showcased on April 29 at Engineering Design Day 2019.

Project Title: Active Drone DenialRaytheon logo

Team 17073 Members:
Zachary Wolfgang Becker, mechanical engineering
Jered Bischann, mechanical engineering
Jennifer Lynn Bundy, systems engineering
Mitch Cohen, mechanical engineering
Khas Ochir Sod Erdene, electrical and computer engineering
Bryan Serpa, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Raytheon

Drones Descending, Patent Pending 

To keep drones out of the skies over certain areas, including sports arenas, concert venues and schools, some companies have developed technologies to create restricted air spaces.

One method for doing so is called radio frequency jamming, or RF jamming, i.e., sending out radio signals on the drone’s frequency and thereby disabling the connection with its remote control. This forces the drone to either drop from the sky or automatically return to its controller, depending on the drone model.

However, these systems can be expensive. In his research, University of Arizona mechanical engineering major Jered Bischann found that developing RF jammer projects can run companies anywhere between $2 million and $20 million.

Stepping Outside Comfort Zones to Create Drone Dead Zones

For their senior capstone project, Team 17073 developed an RF jamming solution for sponsor Raytheon that is simpler, cheaper and more cost-effective than other technologies on the market. To do it, they each had to take a step outside their comfort zones.

For example, RF jamming is a specialized field within electrical engineering that no one on the team was familiar with. Zachary Becker, a mechanical engineering major, stepped up to become the team’s RF jamming expert — an effort that earned him second prize for the II-VI Optical Systems Fish Out of Water Award at Engineering Design Day 2018.

Mitch Cohen, also a mechanical engineer, used his experience at a past internship to take charge of the project’s 3D printing and modeling.

“We were just a team that found our own roles that we were not only best at, but that we also enjoyed,” said Bischann, who took on management and communications responsibilities for the group.

A key element that made the project unique was the subsystem the team selected for their transmissions: a plain old Wi-Fi router, costing about $250. Many companies use special frequency generators, worth thousands of dollars, to fine-tune the frequencies their systems target. In their research, however, Team 17073 found that most commercially available drones operate on frequencies of 2.4 and 5.8 gigahertz — the same frequency Wi-Fi routers use.

Patent Pending With Help From TLA

As the project wrapped up, the team’s mentor, Bob Messenger, recommended they seek the intellectual property rights for their device, with the aim of forming a startup, selling the IP to another company, or simply gaining the experience of pursuing a patent.

The team confirmed that Raytheon didn’t want to claim the intellectual property and began working with the UA office that helps researchers commercialize their inventions, Tech Launch Arizona.

Bischann and his teammates continued to explore the business of engineering. For example, they learned that under U.S. law, a patent must be statutory — a type of invention that’s able to be patented — as well as new, useful and non-obvious.

They focused on the non-obvious aspect of their device by emphasizing their use of a Wi-Fi router. While the patent is still pending, Bischann said the entire process, from learning how to manage a budget to forming connections across industries, has been invaluable.

“The experience definitely helped me get a career job,” said Bischann, who moved to San Diego to work with Naval Air Command after graduation. “I was able to see the connection with the business side of engineering.”

Project Title: Piezoaccelerometer Temperature ChamberCaterpillar logo

Team 17010 Members:
Nicholas Anderson-Masters, electrical and computer engineering
Jacob Lanier, mechanical engineering
Amber Morgan, systems engineering
Carlos Munoz, mechanical engineering
Daniel M. Quinn, biosystems engineering
Jamie Roberson, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: Caterpillar

Team’s Chamber Helps Caterpillar Calibrate More Accurately 

Two women and four men, the members of Team 17010, stand in front of the poster that details their piezoaccelerometer temperature chamber.

When something goes wrong with a piezoaccelerometer, a device that measures acceleration in high temperatures, Caterpillar engineers use a machine called a shaker to calibrate it. The shaker vibrates the accelerometer at a known frequency, creating a data set to help identify the problem.

However, the shaker only works at room temperature. As a result, the data gleaned from the calibration can be unreliable, because the piezoaccelerometer isn’t being tested in the high-heat environment it’s meant to work in.

For their senior design project, Team 17010 created a testing chamber that allows for the best of both worlds: increasing the temperature around the piezoaccelerometer without overheating the shaker’s delicate electronics.

“We’ve never been able to apply heat and shake the piezoaccelerometer at the same time,” sponsor mentor Nitin Patel said. “Now, the piezoaccelerometer is at temperature, but the shaker is at room temperature, and everyone’s happy.”

Learning to Work Outside the Box

“Everyone” includes Patel, who graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2002. He said the collaborative format of the Engineering Design Program has come a long way since he was a senior.

“I like the interdisciplinary nature of the team project,” he said. “I wanted five or six of the best engineers I could get — I didn’t care what their backgrounds were. Being an engineer means you’re working outside the box all the time.”

Divide to Conquer

A close-up of Team 17010's piezoaccelerometer temperature chamber.

Patel enjoyed giving students a chance to build real-world engineering skills, such as teamwork, problem-solving and persistence.

At the start of the project, for example, the team brainstormed ideas for how to heat up the piezoaccelerometer, including a heat gun and an electric heater. They bought supplies to try the electric heater approach but ran into difficulties.

Patel suggested a technique he and his colleagues often take when they face a similar stalemate: Divide the team into two, so some engineers can keep working on the task at hand, and some can investigate other solutions. Half of Team 17010 returned to the heat gun idea and found it to be more effective, and the team used it in their final project.

“That’s the process that you go through as an engineer,” Patel said. “Not everything works the first time around.”

Because it’s a troubleshooting device, the temperature chamber isn’t something Caterpillar uses every day. But Patel said it’s what the company will turn to when they have a concern about how a piezoaccelerometer is working.

Caterpillar will also return to sponsor four news senior projects with the Engineering Design Program in the 2018-2019 academic year, and Patel plans to act as an Engineering Design Day judge as well as a sponsor.

Cliff Andressen stands with the members of teams 17007 and 17008 as they hold a giant check for

Project Title: Advanced Mining Machine ConceptCaterpillar logo

Team 17007 and 17008 Members:
Matthew Hilton, mechanical engineering
Nathaniel Matesich, mechanical engineering
Owen David Pierce, mechanical engineering
Gaurav Sathish, mechanical engineering
Don C. Uvindra Sirimanne, mechanical engineering
Brian C. Cebrynski, engineering management
Maximilian Garber, mechanical engineering
Dylan Arthur Guenther, mechanical engineering
Ivan Llancas, systems engineering
Duy Trong Van, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: Caterpillar

New Award Recognizes Projects with Outstanding Design Solutions

Cliff Andressen stands with the members of teams 17007 and 17008 as they hold a giant check for

Cliff Andressen earned a degree in physics from Loyola University and spent 45 years working as an engineer, 13 of those years at Raytheon. When he retired, he moved to Tucson, and he and his wife joined the UA College of Engineering’s da Vinci Circle.

When the pair saw some of the projects from the college’s annual Engineering Design Day on display at a da Vinci dinner, they decided to check out the next Design Day for themselves.

“I found it fascinating how good some of the projects are,” Andressen said. “I was just awed by the quality of work that UA students were doing.”

When he saw how excited the students were to win awards at Design Day, he decided it was a cause worth contributing to. He sponsored the Andressen Award for Design Above and Beyond, which recognizes projects that exceed requirements and produce results that could influence the development of other products, for the first time at the 2018 event.

“I really like the UA College of Engineering,” he said. “They’re teaching the kids to think, not just to turn the crank.”

Surface Mining System Designed to Impress

When he surveyed this year’s Engineering Design Day, he was immediately impressed by a rare project that involved two groups of seniors — teams 17007 and 17008. Their task: to design and build a small-scale prototype for a surface mining machine that could replace both the electric rope shovel and the hydraulic rope shovel.

“They came up with a totally new way of mining in terms of doing the digging,” Andressen said. “It wasn’t just a shovel with a bulldozer. It was a whole system that allows you to simultaneously extricate and haul off material.”

Finding Success by Joining Forces

Developing the design had its challenges. Project sponsor Caterpillar assigned 10 seniors to work on the project, giving them the option to either split into two teams or work together.

Initially working as two teams, the students realized halfway through the year that the scope of the project called for a combined effort. They took the two design concepts they had developed, performed trade studies to compare pros and cons, and let their sponsor choose between the designs when the results were too close to call.

“This project was largely a systems engineering project, so I, like the rest of the team, was taken out of my comfort zone a bit,” said team member Dylan Guenther, a mechanical engineer. “This has given me a more versatile set of experiences and skills than I would have had on a more formal project. I am certain that this experience will help me get a job and perform it well.”

Andressen, too, was impressed by the real-world experience all teams were receiving — and the valuable input and brainpower the sponsoring companies were gaining. Students were being challenged not just for the sake of a challenge, but because they were working on problems relevant to today’s world, he said.

Despite the all-nighters and unexpected twists and turns along the way, Guenther said he wouldn’t trade the experience. His favorite part was the camaraderie among his teammates that carried them through every trial.

“This was also the most surprising aspect of the project to me: the fact that you can strain so hard and exhaust yourself so much but really love every minute of it, just because of the people around you,” he said.

Project Title: Laser-Guided Ankle Positioning for Total Ankle Arthroplasty

Team 17079 Members:
Madison Cooper, biomedical engineering
Dani McEachern, biomedical engineering
Daniel Medrano, mechanical engineering
Gabriella Romano, biomedical engineering
Jarod C. Weber, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Paragon 28

Laser-Focused Seniors Design Ankle Alignment Accuracy

In total ankle arthroplasty, or ankle replacement, procedures, surgeons must ensure that placement of an ankle prosthesis is aligned correctly with the patient’s hip, while still allowing the ankle to have six degrees of freedom of movement.

Surgeons ensure this alignment by cutting two fixation points on the patient’s ankle and shin. This introduces two sites of trauma and two sites for possible infection, and increases recovery time and the number of steps in postoperative protocol.

For their senior project, Team 17079 designed a system that uses a laser beam shining from ankle to hip to attain the correct alignment, eliminating the need for a second fixation point and achieving a level of accuracy that exceeds existing methods.

“This could open doorways to rethink the way we do orthopedic surgery,” said team leader Daniel Medrano.

To do it, they exceeded the project requirements, going through three prototypes of the finished product, and many more rounds of prototyping for each of the system’s custom-designed components.

Team member Gabriella Romano used the research lab she works in to 3D-print the first prototype for the laser mount and brought it home in her backpack. That night, her house was robbed, and her backpack — laptop, prototype and all — were gone.

Beating the ‘Bad News Bears’ Luck

“I think I had the prototype for all of two hours,” she said. “If they made an underdog or a ‘Bad News Bears’ story for engineers, that was us.”

But the team didn’t give up hope. They forged ahead with their prototyping and called in associate professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering Dr. Daniel Latt, an orthopedic surgeon, to perform two mock procedures using their device.

His feedback indicated the guide was easy to use and improved one of the most important alignment steps in the surgery. Their average angular deviation was +/- 0.75 percent, lower than current alignment guides on the market.

Frank Barmes, a project engineer at Paragon 28 and one of the team’s corporate mentors, said he appreciated what the students’ diverse experiences and interests brought to the project. The company has even submitted a provisional patent application for the device.

“The team worked well together for great results,” he said. “We fully expect to continue the project through commercialization.”

Hard Work, Sacrifice Earn Design Day Win

The team spent hours practicing their presentation in the days leading up to Design Day. They were proud of their hard work, but weren’t expecting any outstanding accolades when the big event rolled around.

Once it arrived, they were surprised by the number of people — both judges and passers-by — who told them their device could make a real impact in the medical field. When they were announced as the winners of the Raytheon Award for Best Overall Design, the $5,000 top prize, their jaws dropped.

One of the first people to come up to Romano was her academic adviser, who assured her that the whole team would have no problem finding jobs after their win.

“My group and I worked endlessly on this project, and at times we had to sacrifice other classes’ study time,” Medrano said. “But, in the end, it was well worth our efforts because it has changed our future. And how many engineering students can say they won Design Day?”

Project Title: Balance and Cognition Fall Intervention Application

Team 17006 Members:
Rose Blank, engineering management with systems and industrial engineering minor
Samuel Younghwan Kim, biomedical engineering
Zhongpu Li, electrical and computer engineering
Cameron McHugh, biomedical engineering
Sheldon Ruiz, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Arizona Center on Aging

Students Focus on Helping People, Improving Lives with Smartphone App

Adults ages 60 and older have an increased risk of falling — and injuring themselves — due to diminished neuromuscular feedback. But performing simple exercises can increase neuromuscular control and enhance balance, posture and position awareness, reducing fall risk.

Team 17006 created the UA Balance app, a simple iOS– and Android-compatible smartphone app that guides users through exercises, offers motivational notifications, and tracks progress to keep them engaged.

Users place red, green, yellow and blue circles onto the ground, and the app’s audio instructs them to touch their feet onto the circles in alternating patterns — almost like a solo, feet-only game of Twister. The exercises can be done either sitting or standing.

“All of us know somebody who has fallen,” said team member Cameron Fay McHugh, who has helped her own grandmother to try the program. “It was really fulfilling to work on an app that can hopefully decrease those numbers. Engineering is pointless if it cannot be used to help people and, in some way, improve their lives.”

Must-Have Medical App

MedPage Today, an online resource for health care professionals and physicians, has taken notice of the team’s work, naming it one of the “Must-Have Medical Apps” for two weeks in a row in May.

While significant research went into studying the best evidence-based dual motor-cognitive exercises, and the students needed expertise from several different areas of engineering, McHugh said the most challenging part of the project was keeping its audience in mind.

“We’re designing an app that’s used on a smartphone, and our main audience is 65 and older,” she said.

To accommodate this, the team created an extremely simple interface, with a navigation tutorial that can be accessed at any time. Users can also change everything from the app’s font size to the repetition, duration and tempo of the exercises.

Jane Mohler — professor in the UA’s College of Medicine – Tucson, associate director of the Center on Aging and the team’s technical mentor — said the team made an important contribution to the field of fall intervention by programming and testing the app.

“By collaborating with a senior engineering team, you can receive meaningful help while helping to train our future engineers in how to work productively in a team,” she said.

The judges, sponsors and mentors of Design Day 2018 stand on the stairs outside the Student Union Ballroom.

Thank you to all our amazing Design Day judges!

The success of 2018’s Design Day would not have been possible without its judges. University of Arizona Engineering Design Program is thankful for the invaluable contribution made by the 115 judges who participated this year.

Representatives joined us from companies such as Raytheon, Microsoft, PayPal, Caterpillar, Honeywell and Ventana Medical — and from UA academic units — applying a wide field of knowledge to the evaluation of the senior capstone projects.

On behalf of our faculty, staff and students, thank you for all you do.

By the numbers:

  • 115 judges
  • 59 corporate organizations
  • 15 UA-affiliated project sponsors
  • 116 projects
  • 586 students
  • 32 awards
  • $35,000 in prizes

See the full list of award-winning projects.

When the dust settled at Design Day 2018, Team 17079 was holding the Raytheon Award for Best Overall Design, but thanks to the generosity of numerous sponsors, the College of Engineering awarded $35,000 in prizes to the winning teams.

Congratulations to the winners, and to all the competitors, for their exceptional senior design projects.

Raytheon Award for Best Overall Design – First Prize ($5,000)
Laser Guided-Ankle Positioning for Total Ankle Anthroplasty
Team 17079 Members:
Madison Elizabeth Cooper, biomedical engineering
Dani McEachern, biomedical engineering
Daniel Medrano, mechanical engineering
Gabriella Romano, biomedical engineering
Jarod C. Weber, electrical and computer engineering
Project Sponsor: Paragon 28


PayPal Award for Best Overall Design – Second Prize ($2,500)
Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Parachute System
Team 17078 Members:
Abdulmajed Almodhabri, electrical and computer engineering
Keenan Heller, mechanical engineering
Steve Miller, electrical and computer engineering
Christian Oropeza, industrial engineering
Nicholas Paul Patzke, mechanical engineering
Jonathon Ji-Su Seo Rea, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: O-Chute


Microsoft Award for Best System Software Design ($2,500)
Web-Based Interface for Digital Maritime Distress
Team 17051 Members:
Dennis A. Hardy, electrical and computer engineering
Michael P. Harmon, electrical and computer engineering
Derek McMullen, electrical and computer engineering
Carlos Perez, electrical and computer engineering
Muhammad Bilal Rao, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: General Dynamics Mission Systems


Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award – First Prize ($1,500 )
Enteral Feeding Low-Profile Gastrostomy Tube Medical Device
Team 17048 Members:
Jaime Guillermo Arenas, mechanical engineering
Duffy Elmer, biomedical engineering
Branson Hughes Grieser, biomedical engineering
Cheyenne Quinn Moffett, biomedical engineering
Amber Rose Rodriguez, materials science and engineering
Gillian Sweeney, industrial engineering
Project Sponsor: Xeridiem


Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award – Second Prize ($750)
Automated Intellectual Property Protection of Open-Frame Printed Circuit Boards
Team 17063 Members:
Gabrielle Casini, biomedical engineering
Broderick R. Krager, electrical and computer engineering
Duncan A. Reed, electrical and computer engineering
Wei Ren, mechanical engineering
Guillermo Silva Rosas, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: Apex Microtechnology


Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award – Honorable Mention
Landing Gear Bearing Test Machine
Team 17037 Members:
Gregory Anthony Abbott, mechanical engineering
Walker I. Ellwood, electrical and computer engineering
Nicholas Holloway, mechanical engineering
Lukas Merkle, mechanical engineering
Christopher William Zurita, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: Sargent Aerospace and Defense


Thorlabs Photonics Is the Future Award ($250 per person, up to $1,750)
Tissue Thickness Analyzer
Team 17046 Members:
Jonathan J. Benavidez, electrical and computer engineering
Zachary Garrett, optical sciences and engineering
Meagan Jennifer Holmes, systems engineering
Jilian Nguyen, optical sciences and engineering
Kenneth Edward Schackart, biosystems engineering
Project Sponsor: Ventana Medical Systems


Bly Family Award for Innovation in Energy Production, Supply or Use – First Prize ($1,500)
Archimedes Screw Pump for Algae Reactor Recirculation System
Team 17021 Members:
Catalina Fernandez-Moores, biosystems engineering
Luis-Alejandro Garcia-Ramirez, biosystems engineering
Antonio Gutierrez-Jaramillo, biosystems engineering
Tina Thao Nguyen, systems engineering
Brandon B. Preciado, electrical and computer engineering
Hailey Alixandra Stock, biosystems engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


Bly Family Award for Innovation in Energy Production, Supply or Use – Second Prize ($500)
Shallow Ground Natural Gas Aeration Improvement
Team 17045 Members:
Ali Ibrahim Amailou, mechanical engineering
Jamaal J. Ferguson, electrical and computer engineering
Nolan Tai Nguyen, mechanical engineering
Erica Nicole Rao, mechanical engineering
Christopher E. Summersgill, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: Southwest Gas


Andressen Award for Design Above and Beyond ($1,500)
Advanced Mining Machine Concept
Team 17007 and 17008 Members:
Matthew Hilton, mechanical engineering
Nathaniel Matesich, mechanical engineering
Owen David Pierce, mechanical engineering
Gaurav Sathish, mechanical engineering
Don C. Uvindra Sirimanne, mechanical engineering
Brian C. Cebrynski, engineering management
Maximilian Garber, mechanical engineering
Dylan Arthur Guenther, mechanical engineering
Ivan Llancas, systems engineering
Duy Trong Van, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: Caterpillar


Rincon Research Award for Best Presentation ($1,500)
Test Rig for Pressurized Bolt Joint Assemblies
Team 17031 Members:
Luis Bustamante, mechanical engineering
Reagan Loree DeVoe, mechanical engineering
Lisanne Hagens, mechanical engineering
Alexander Ellis Heydt, systems engineering
Bradley David King, mechanical engineering
Syeed Sweis, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: Honeywell


Ventana Award for Innovation in Engineering ($1,500)
Wearable System for Detecting Extremity Swelling
Team 17089 Members:
David Johnson, biomedical engineering
Venus Slag, systems engineering
Jacob P. Toman-Ibarra, electrical and computer engineering
Jacob Wait, engineering management
Gregory Wheeler, biomedical engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering


Microsoft Fish Out of Water Award – First Prize ($750)
Nydia Maldonado Flores, systems engineering (Team 17054, project sponsored by General Dynamics Mission Systems)

II-VI Optical Systems Fish Out of Water Award – Second Prize ($500)
Zachary Wolfgang Becker, mechanical engineering (Team 17073, project sponsored by Raytheon)


W.L. Gore & Associates Award for Most Creative Solution ($1,250)
Virtual Reality System for Analyzing Human Brain Neuronal Networks
Team 17061 Members:
Erica Michelle Bosset, optical sciences and engineering
Joseph Elliott Clark, systems engineering
John Maximillian DiBaise, biomedical engineering
Josiah M. McClanahan, electrical and computer engineering
Edward Richter, electrical and computer engineering
Vincent Tso, biomedical engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering


ACSS/L-3 Communications Award for Most Robust Systems Engineering ($1,000)
Low-Cost Autonomous Mobile Telemetry Platform
Team 17016 Members:
Clarissa Kay Morse Hill, systems engineering
Justin Loera, electrical and computer engineering
Ciaran James McGirr, electrical and computer engineering
Swati Munjal, electrical and computer engineering
Brandon Sipos, electrical and computer engineering
Project Sponsor: Microsoft


Technical Documentation Consultants of Arizona Award for Best Design Documentation ($1,000)
Landing Gear Bearing Test Machine
Team 17037 Members:
Gregory Anthony Abbott, mechanical engineering
Walker I. Ellwood, electrical and computer engineering
Nicholas Holloway, mechanical engineering
Lukas Merkle, mechanical engineering
Christopher William Zurita, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: Sargent Aerospace and Defense


Texas Instruments Analog Design Contest ($1,000)
Secure Wireless Protocol
Team 17052 Members:
Bowen Hu, electrical and computer engineering
Chenrun Liu, electrical and computer engineering
Jake Ryan Reed, electrical and computer engineering
Jason Tran, electrical and computer engineering
Anthony M. Vega, electrical and computer engineering
Project Sponsor: General Dynamics Mission Systems


TRAX International Award for Best Implementation of Agile Methodology ($1,000)
Tissue-Replacement Control Slides
Team 17049 Members:
Paul Humberto Acosta, biomedical engineering
Alexander Day, biomedical engineering
Tatum Hale, biosystems engineering
Gabrielle Vanessa Hutchens, biomedical engineering
Vy Nguyen, biomedical engineering
Project Sponsor: Ventana Medical Systems


RBC Sargent Aerospace & Defense Voltaire Design Award ($1,000)
Macular Degeneration Evaluation System
Team 17062 Members:
Erika Nicole Ackerman, biosystems engineering
Lexa Brossart, biomedical engineering
Shelley Christine Meyer, biomedical engineering
Rory Edward Morrison-Colvin, biomedical engineering
Ryan Matthew Nolcheff, optical sciences and engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering


Arizona Technology Council Foundation Award for Best Engineering Analysis ($750)
Production and Cost Analysis of Dimethyl Ether for Transportation
Team 17116 Members:
Bowen James Clark, chemical engineering
Derek Andrew Hogue, chemical engineering
Kubale Shamabanse, chemical engineering
Amanda Rae Soles, chemical engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering


Arizona Technology Council Foundation Award for Innovation in Manufacturing ($750)
Quadrivalent Flu Vaccine Production
Team 17105 Members:
Teagan Ashley Baacke, chemical engineering
Elijah Blue Foster, chemical engineering
Marissa Ann Gautier, chemical engineering
Esteban Jimenez, chemical engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering


Edmund Optics Award for Perseverance and Recovery ($750)
Smart Museum Display Cabinet
Team 17036 Members:
Ryan Patrick Cosic, mechanical engineering
Robert Keller, electrical and computer engineering
Chuan Luo, materials science and engineering
Carlos Ogas, optical sciences and engineering
Charles J. Radcliffe, electrical and computer engineering
Michael Paul Syson, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: GEOST


PADT Award for Best Use of Prototyping ($750)
Noncontact Detection of Bioelectric Fields
Team 17091 Members:
Kyle James Bachelor, biosystems engineering
James Norrid Lacey, biomedical engineering
Khalid Mobarak Omer, optical sciences and engineering
James Samuel Pelham, biomedical engineering
Bernd Francisco Steklis, biomedical engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Laboratory for the Advancement of Consciousness


Dataforth Corporation Award for Best Design Using a Data Acquisition and Control System ($500)
Mobile Propellant-Densification Unit for Orbital Class Launch Vehicle
Team 17088 Members:
Jack Christman, electrical and computer engineering
Yulian Yaroslav Chulovskiy, mechanical engineering
Matthew Kingzett, chemical engineering
David Montgomery, mechanical engineering
Benito Nakane Pimienta, mechanical engineering
Shandi Spencer, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: Vector


Honeywell Award for Excellence in Aerospace Electronic System Design ($500)
Pressure Sensor and Data-Acquisition System
Team 17029 Members:
Kamel Alami, industrial engineering
Ivan Castro Ornelas, electrical and computer engineering
Ryan J. Nyborg, electrical and computer engineering
David Quezada, mechanical engineering
Xuesen Tan, electrical and computer engineering
Project Sponsor: Honeywell


Honeywell Award for Excellence in Aerospace Mechanical System Design ($500)
Turbine Engine Frangible Bearing Support Design
Team 17028 Members:
Baktash Hakeemi, mechanical engineering
Jacob Lucas, mechanical engineering
Francisco Montoya, mechanical engineering
Scott Charles Rebeck, mechanical engineering
Xiangdong Xiao, engineering management
Project Sponsor: Honeywell


Honeywell Award for Team Leadership 1 ($250)
Austin Douglas Ziska, chemical engineering (Team 17111, project sponsored by UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering)

Honeywell Award for Team Leadership 2 ($250)
Erica Nicole Rao, mechanical engineering (Team 17029, project sponsored by Southwest Gas)



Latitude Engineering Award for Best Physical Implementation of Analytically Driven Design ($500)
Additive Heat Exchanger Characterization and Optimization
Team 17030 Members:
Nathan David Fier, mechanical engineering
Jaydon Michael Flori, mechanical engineering
Theodore Joseph Hastings, mechanical engineering
Mark Lopez, mechanical engineering
Jamie Vail, systems engineering
Project Sponsor: Honeywell


Prototron Circuits Award for Best Printed Circuit Design ($500)
Low-Cost Unmanned Aircraft-Based Lidar Scanning System
Team 17003 Members:
Hamad Alqabandi, industrial engineering
Lane Elizabeth Breshears, biomedical engineering
Richard A. Herriman, electrical and computer engineering
Daniel Inigo Gamiz, optical sciences and engineering
Benjamin Mark Weaver, optical sciences and engineering
Isaak Maxwell Willett, biosystems engineering
Project Sponsor: UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


II-VI Optical Systems Award for Best Use of Optical Design and Technology ($500)
Imaging Pyrometer for Furnace Temperature Monitoring
Team 17024 Members:
John Brewer, materials science and engineering
Anthony J. Del Castillo, materials science and engineering
Nea N. Sample Hamilton, optical sciences and engineering
Jose C. Hernandez, electrical and computer engineering
Hannah Marie Rowe, mechanical engineering
Project Sponsor: Control Vision


Cyber Warrior Award For Best Cybersecurity Design ($500)
Secure Wireless Protocol
Team 17052 Members:
Bowen Hu, electrical and computer engineering
Chenrun Liu, electrical and computer engineering
Jake Ryan Reed, electrical and computer engineering
Jason Tran, electrical and computer engineering
Anthony M. Vega, electrical and computer engineering
Project Sponsor: General Dynamics Mission Systems

Project Title: Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Parachute System

Team 17078 Members:
Abdulmajed Almodhabri, electrical and computer engineering
Keenan Heller, mechanical engineering
Steve Miller, electrical and computer engineering
Christian Oropeza, industrial engineering
Nick Patzke, mechanical engineering
Jonathon Rea, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: O-Chute

Young Alum Employs Students to Design and Deploy Drone Parachutes

When his parents bought Pete Lauderdale II a drone, it didn’t take long to crash it. Luckily, it was only a minor run-in with the couch, but it got the 25-year-old UA alumnus thinking: Many drones travel upward of 40 mph and can soar miles from their earthbound pilots, but even for his relatively cheap drone, a crash could have unsalvageable — not to mention heartbreaking — results.

“It’s 800 dollars. If it falls out of the sky, there’s no way it’s going to land safely,” he said. “How do you stop an object like that from falling down and getting damaged?”

In addition, Lauderdale realized these drones represented a safety hazard after reading about Californian pedestrians getting hit in the head with falling drones, and about an incident in Turkey where a single plummeting drone injured 11 people.

An idea started to form, about a lightweight parachute that would automatically deploy when a drone started to lose altitude too quickly. Lauderdale’s market research determined there were only three or four other people in the world, all overseas, marketing similar ideas — he enrolled in Startup Tucson’s Thryve, a three-month intensive course about entrepreneurship.

“I’m not a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer,” he said. “But I’m hardworking, and I’m ready to find any avenue to get this thing completed.”

When he asked the folks at Startup Tucson how he might be able to get his product developed without breaking the bank, they suggested the Engineering Design Program. He was surprised — he was fresh out of college, not a major donor by any means. But not only did his completion of the Thryve course line up perfectly with the Engineering Design Program’s need for a few more challenging programs, he also learned that startups like his qualified for a hefty discount on the program.

In August 2017, he founded O-Chute.

A Team Comes Together

His Engineering Design Program team has been tasked with designing a lightweight product that works reliably at all altitudes; can be counted on to deploy reliably and not get tangled; and offers a user-friendly installation process.

He likes his team, and hopes they’re interested in sticking with the project because he’s certainly interested in hiring them on at O-Chute after graduation.

“Most of the senior design projects are from corporations or government entities,” said team member Steve Miller. “Pete is just a guy with a vision, and I liked the idea of working for that vision.”

“You have so many people working toward one goal, it’s really cool,” Lauderdale said. “They’re working so hard, so I know I’ve got to work harder.”

Once the design is finalized, Lauderdale plans to get a provisional patent, then a full patent, and hopes to leverage his background in international affairs to sell his product in other countries. He also wants to talk to insurance companies to see if people who buy his product can qualify for reduced deductibles on drone insurance.

The fruits of Lauderdale’s collaboration with Team 17078 will be on display at Design Day on April 30.

Bob Messenger graduated with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from California State University Northridge in 1981. He is a retired Navy carrier pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours. Until his retirement in 2015, he served as program manager for Raytheon’s AIM-9X/F-22 integration program.

Currently, Messenger is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and the colleges of Science and Engineering. 

This is his third year as a mentor for the Engineering Design Program.

What inspired you to become a mentor in the first place?

I became a mentor to give back and contribute to our future engineering leaders.

How have you benefited from the experience of being a mentor?

I had various mentors in the military and during my civilian career, and mentorship was invaluable at supporting me in navigating difficult times during my career.

How does being on a mentored design team help students in the professional world?

They learn that they are not alone and that they can reach out to the experts that are all around them when they need support.

What do you enjoy about working with the students?

I have really enjoyed working with all the teams. One that was particularly interesting was the Modular Payload Bay design project for Northrup Grumman last year.

What advice would you offer to others considering mentoring a design team?

If it is something you are interested in, go for it. You’ll have tons of fun!

How do employers benefit when they hire students who have been on a mentored senior design team?

These students understand how to work on a project team in a collaborative environment and can hit the deck running when they are hired. It takes these students much less time to get up to speed than others.

Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.

I had a career as a Navy carrier pilot where I cruised around the world and visited many exotic ports. I love to ski.

Project Title: Shallow Ground Natural Gas Aeration Improvement

Team 17045 Members:
Ali Amailou, mechanical engineering
Jamaal Jackson Ferguson, electrical and computer engineering
Nolan Nguyen, mechanical engineering
Erica Rao, mechanical engineering
Christopher Summersgill, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: Southwest Gas

Extracting Hazardous Gas Leaks From Soil

When natural gas pipes leak, Southwest Gas personnel remove the gas from the ground using a process called aeration, which involves creating a vacuum above ground that draws the gas out of the soil and ejects it into the atmosphere.

“When natural gas saturates the ground after a leak, it’s hanging out down there where it could be potentially hazardous,” said Josh Spivey, supervisor of construction at Southwest Gas and one of the sponsor mentors for the project, along with Dominique Mitchell and Philip Ciuffetelli. “But once it’s aerated out of the ground, it just dissipates because being lighter than air is one of the safety features of natural gas.”

A Cheaper, Quieter and More Efficient Solution

Team 17045 has been tasked with creating a cheaper, quieter and more efficient device for natural gas aeration. The team’s objective was to make the new model 10 percent more efficient. First, they ran a test of the existing model to determine its efficiency levels and establish a baseline of performance. Then they took measurements of the device’s pieces to render a 3-D computer model in SolidWorks and run a flow simulation. Once the results of their model were sufficiently close to the results of the real-world machine, they adjusted variables such as the size and shape of the chamber until the model was running with maximum efficiency. They made further adjustments to accommodate manufacturing needs.

“We wanted to make as many of the pipes and tubes as we could just purchasable online,” said student team leader Erica Rao. “Southwest Gas wants to be able to buy off-the-shelf components as much as possible.”

Mentors Bring UA Education, Real-World Experience

The team’s three mentors are all UA graduates themselves, and were eager for the chance to mentor students on this project.

“It’s a great project for the senior design team, but it’s also a great product we can actually use,” Mitchell said. “It’s about trying to do something quickly but safely to remove the gas from the ground.”

The students said they benefit from the advice of fellow engineers, whether it’s about the basics of welding or how to work with air traveling at supersonic speeds. But their mentors are proud to say that this really is a student-run project, with the mentors there only for guidance.

“The students are there to solve the project for us. They have skill sets and resources that we don’t have at Southwest Gas,” Spivey said. “It could be used across our entire company, pending the right results.”

Team 17045’s project will be on display at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day on April 30.

Project Title: Customer-Optimized Power Use and Cost

Team 17022 Members:
Hadi Almakaiel, mechanical engineering
Dylan Carlson, electrical and computer engineering
Kendall Collier, systems engineering
Daniel Miranda, electrical and computer engineering
Liam Spinney, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Tucson Electric Power

Getting a Peek at Energy Peaks

Most people tend to use energy at the same times of day. For example, Tucson Electric Power reports its peak hours are from 3 to 7 p.m. in the summer and from 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. during the winter. Because electricity is more expensive for TEP to produce during these hours, it’s also more expensive for the customer. Customers can opt into a cheaper payment plan by not using electricity during peak hours.

However, some people don’t know their own energy use habits very well, and some have a hard time navigating TEP’s tiered plans. Enter team 17022.

“The idea behind our project is to create a system that measures how much power people are using and calculates cost,” said team member Dylan Carlson. “Then it presents that information, so people can determine what they can do to save money without changing their energy use.”

A Powerful Tool for Monitoring Power

To achieve this, the team is developing software and hardware to monitor data and display it to customers. First, there’s a current transformer that customers can plug devices into, which will monitor how much electricity they use throughout the day.

“Basically, you’ll be plugging your refrigerator — or whatever appliances you want to monitor — into our device,” Carlson said.

The software side of the project involves creating an interface that allows customers to view their energy use patterns and decide on ways they might be able to shift their usage to cheaper times. For example, if a person discovers from the data that they usually do laundry from 6 to 7 p.m. during the winter, they could shift their laundry routine from 5 to 6 p.m. and save money by avoiding peak usage times.

“A lot of what they’re doing in this project is only possible now because it requires computers, databases and internet access to systems that control the house,” said the team’s college mentor, Dave Gilblom. “They couldn’t have done that 10 years ago.”

Data Collection and Weatherproofing For the Future

The team is conducting accuracy testing to make sure their hardware is correctly capturing data, and developing weatherproof boxes for customers who want to monitor outside devices. They hope the project will ultimately lead to cheaper electricity bills for Tucson and beyond.

“I thought it was pretty relatable,” said student team leader Kendall Collier. “Everyone has a power bill, and everyone pays it. It’s something that I could use and would affect my life.”

Team 17022 will be displaying their energy use software and hardware at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day on April 30.

Project Title: Installation Design of Phase Change Material in Residential Homes

Team 17066 Members:
Nofal Alkhunaizi, engineering management
Nic Balda, mechanical engineering
Tyler Farley, industrial engineering
Alex Gill, mechanical engineering
Tanya Turner, mechanical engineering
Lorelei Wong, industrial engineering

Sponsor: Salt River Project

Keeping Casas Cool

Most Tucsonans are familiar with the spike in their electricity bill that comes with the summer months. They’re also familiar with the fact that this comes mostly from running air conditioning units during the day.

Phase change material, or PCM, could change that. PCM is a material that can store and release large quantities of energy by melting and resolidifying. Its heat-absorbing properties are already used to keep some industrial buildings cool during the summer.

In a project sponsored by the Salt River Project, Team 17066 is examining a way to install PCM into existing residential homes.

Saving Money Through Off-Hours Energy Use

The team is investigating a material that changes phase at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that when the outdoor temperature exceeds 77 degrees, heat energy is channeled into melting the PCM, thus slowing the transfer of heat energy into the building. On the other hand, when temperatures dip below 77 degrees in the evening, the cooler air has to resolidify the PCM before the air can cool the inside of the house. Even if this means running the air conditioner in the evenings, it has the benefit of shifting energy use out of peak demand hours, when — thanks to the law of supply and demand — electricity is more expensive for both utility companies and customers.

“If the Salt River Project could flatten the peaks out, it would be less costly to them and obviously less costly to the customer,” said Steve Larimore, the team’s college mentor.

The students said one of the trickiest parts of their project is devising a system for retrofitting existing buildings, rather than designing new buildings or even taking measures like tearing down walls. But the challenging nature of the project has led to some creative methods of getting PCM into a house. For example, installing it in an attic — similar to the way it’s used in industrial buildings — is ideal, but not every home has an attic.

Drawing the Curtains on Excess Heat

Much of the heat that enters a house comes in through the windows, so the team is experimenting with PCM-filled curtains to block the heat. They’ve also investigated incorporating PCM into large pieces of furniture, such as beds or dressers; using customizable, decorative boxes that hang 4 to 6 inches below the ceilings; and even hiding the PCM behind large pieces of canvas artwork.

The team has started off by building a model house, a 3-by-3-foot box that they’ll try retrofitting with PCM in different configurations. Then they’ll shine a heat lamp on the box to simulate summer weather conditions and hook up an AC unit. If they find a setup that works well, they’ll pursue the results further by running similar tests on a software model. Hopefully, the students say, they’ll be a part of a project that affects homeowners everywhere for the better. In the meantime, they’re learning from and enjoying the process.

“There’s a lot of excitement leading up to the senior design project, because it has such real-world application and teams get to work with a real budget, but it lives up to the hype,” said team member Nic Balda. “I can definitely see why it’s one of the top-rated design programs in the nation.”

See this project and other designs that could change the way we live at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day on April 30.

Project Title: Tissue-Replacement Control Slides

Team 17049 Members:
Paul Acosta, biomedical engineering
Alexander Day, biomedical engineering
Tatum Hale, biosystems engineering
Gabrielle Hutchens, biomedical engineering
Vy Nguyen, biomedical engineering

Sponsor: Ventana Medical Systems Inc.

Tech Could Save Lives, Time and Money

When scientists like those at Ventana Medical Center look at tissue under a microscope, every tissue sample looks a little bit different. That’s the point, after all: to look for microscopic differences in tissue that might be indicators of diseases such as cancer. They use colored stains that bind to different parts of the tissue: hematoxylin, a purple stain that binds to nucleic acids, and eosin, a pink stain that binds to substances such as amino acids and proteins.

Sometimes, however, minute differences are caused by the very machine that does the staining. Scientists have to account for whether differences between tissues are due to the tissues themselves or to the staining process. To do this, Ventana runs high sample sizes of tissue to reduce variability, which is neither cost nor time effective.

“If we had a control slide, we could greatly reduce the number of slides we need to run,” said Daniel O’Connor, Ventana’s mentor for the project. “That would save us quite a bit of time and money.”

A Student-Engineered Solution

Five students in the University of Arizona Engineering Design Program were tasked with creating a control slide, a nontissue slide that would stain in a simple, specific pattern the same way every time. If the scientists stain the control slide and it looks different from the specific pattern it should produce, then they know that variations in the stained tissue samples are likely due to the machine, not to inherent variations in the tissue.

“We want to know if our instruments here are functioning as designed,” O’Connor said.

Settling on a Stain

The team found two different materials that best suited their needs for a control slide.

“We needed something that has nucleic acid-like structures that would bind the stains,” said Gabrielle Hutchens, the student team leader.

After much trial and error — they tried Elmer’s glue, acetone, nail polish and even paper — the team settled on an art glue called methylcellulose, which binds well with hematoxylin, and nylon, which binds well with eosin.

“We have ideas, and they work,” Hutchens said. “It’s just implementing them and making them easy every time, and making something that’s going to be consistent for Ventana.”

Their project will be on public display at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day on April 30.

“We’re always looking for more efficient and effective ways of doing things, and this just seems like a very big opportunity, mostly because it doesn’t only impact our department but all of the R&D in the organization, and even beyond that,” O’Connor said.

Sharon ONeal retired as Software Engineering Center director at Raytheon Missile Systems in 2017. During her 32 years with the company, she held a wide range of positions, often leading programs worth upward of $200 million. Among her many career successes was becoming the first female senior fellow in Raytheon Missile Systems.

The first in her family to obtain a college degree, ONeal earned her BS in computer science from California State University, Northridge in 1984, and her MS in computer engineering from the University of Southern California in 1991.

This is her second year as a mentor for the Engineering Design Program.

What inspired you to become a mentor in the first place?

I love working with the next generation of engineers and helping launch them into rewarding and exciting careers in engineering.

How have you benefited from the experience of being a mentor?

Today’s engineering students are graduating with fantastic skills in the latest technologies and tools. Consequently, being a mentor for ENGR 498 becomes a bi-directional mentoring experience. I am able to share more than 34 years of experience and lessons learned with very diverse engineering students, and in return I learn about some of the latest advances made in engineering technologies.

How does being on a mentored design team help students in the professional world?

We are able to share real-world experiences with the students. I have been able to provide career guidance and coaching to several students over the two years I have been a mentor, and it is extremely rewarding to see our students launch their careers.

What do you enjoy about working with the students?

I have been absolutely blown away by the creativity and innovative thinking of some of my students and teams. They are not afraid to take on and develop complex design solutions and diligently work through the many challenges they face in prototyping, integration and testing.

What advice would you offer to others considering mentoring a design team?

Share your experiences, but at the same time, invite new experiences that you will encounter working with the students — because you will surely learn about new methodologies, tools and technologies along the way. Be open-minded and give your students free rein to explore and innovate in their own unique ways.

How do employers benefit when they hire students who have been on a mentored senior design team?

They get to see firsthand what capabilities the students have. I had more than 10 students last year who were hired by their sponsoring company. That is quite amazing.

Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to learn.

I’m very dedicated to conducting STEM outreach for school-age children in the Southern Arizona community. Fifteen years ago, I founded the Math Science and Technology Funfest in Tucson, which unites hundreds of scientists and engineers and provides hands-on and informational activities for kids. Since its inception in March 2003, more than 75,000 school-age children from all socio-economic backgrounds have benefited from this event, which is now known as AZ STEM.

Three members of Team 17062 stand next to an apparatus they designed to mimic features of the human eye.

Project Title: Macular Degeneration Evaluation System

Team 17062 Members:
Erika Ackerman, biosystems engineering
Lexa Brossart, biomedical engineering
Shelley Meyer, biomedical engineering
Rory Morrison-Colvin, biomedical engineering
Ryan Nolcheff, optical sciences

Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

Students Develop Project That Could Help People See More Clearly

Three members of Team 17062 stand next to an apparatus they designed to mimic features of the human eye.Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for people age 50 and over, and it affects approximately a third of people over 75.

A team of students in the University of Arizona’s Engineering Design Program are working on a device to study the disease’s causes by examining retinal pigment epithelial cells, or RPE. Their project could be a major step toward finding the first-ever treatment for macular degeneration.

Robert Snyder, an ophthalmologist and professor of biomedical engineering at UA, and Brian McKay, associate professor of ophthalmology in the UA College of Medicine, are the College project mentors.

McKay studies l-dopa, a type of protein that is produced by healthy RPE in a feedback loop in which cells produce the protein and the protein helps the cells grow. But in individuals with macular degeneration, l-dopa production has gone amok. McKay and Snyder also hypothesize that the proteins in the eye, including l-dopa, are produced in a sort of circadian rhythm, but that the rhythm is off in individuals with macular degeneration.

Putting a Hypothesis to the Test

To test the hypothesis, the students are creating an apparatus designed to mimic the environment of the eye and test levels of protein output throughout the day.

Nutrients such as l-dopa move via two tubes through a chamber of RPE, and come out the other end of the chamber carrying new proteins produced by the RPE. The system is unusual in that it washes the nutrients over the cells rather than leaving cells in a static pool of media.

“If you had a culture system that was just a bunch of cells lying in a culture plate for 24 or 48 hours, you wouldn’t see that feedback loop,” Snyder said.

RPE cells are polarized, with apical surfaces that face the external environment and basal surfaces that face the internal environment. The two-tube system corresponds with the two polarities and will allow researchers to see which proteins are being produced by which surfaces.

The nutrients with the new RPE proteins will be collected in microcentrifuge dishes on two collection disks, with 24 dishes each that rotate every hour. This means there will be a sample of both the apical and basal proteins produced for every hour of the day. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay machine, or an ELISA, can then determine the protein levels in the samples.

“Essentially, we’ll have a time-dependent scale of each of the proteins throughout the day,” said student team leader Erika Ackerman.

Once the system — which will be on public display at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day on April 30 — is up and running, the team and future researchers can experiment with variables. Such variables could include exposing the RPE to 12 varying periods of darkness and light, or adjusting the nutrients and flow rate to investigate other RPE-related diseases such as albinism and glaucoma.

Project Title: Microfluidic-Based System for Mimicking Human Organs

Team 17047 Members:
Fernando Albelo, biomedical engineering
Bailey Bellaire, biomedical engineering
Apoorva Bhaskara, biomedical engineering
Victor Estrada, mechanical engineering
Adolfo Herrera, mechanical engineering
Meagan Tran, biomedical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

Organ-Imitating Device Could Mean the End of Animal Testing

A female member of Team 17047 selects a slide while her other hand rests on an electron microscope while a male team member observes.Undergraduate biomedical and mechanical engineers in the University of Arizona’s Engineering Design Program are teaming up to create a “lung on a chip,” a microfluidic device that could offer a new method for testing treatments and identifying how practices like smoking e-cigarettes affect the lungs. Microfluidics is the science of working with fluids on a submillimeter scale.

Using epithelial cells, which line many of the body’s surfaces, and endothelial cells, a single-layer type of epithelium, to create a two-channel system, the students hope to recreate the lung’s most important function: the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

“The idea is that it is possible to break it down into the simplest structure that can capture the most important processes,” said College team mentor Yitshak Zohar, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and director of the Integrated Microsystem Laboratory.

Historically, scientists have studied the way external stimuli affect cells using one of two methods. The first is on monolayers, using only epithelial or endothelial cells, which doesn’t allow scientist to capture the complex natures of cell signaling in a real organ. The second is to test treatments on animals — not only a complicated ethical issue, but also not the same as using human tissues. As Zohar said, there are basic biological differences that mean results of animal testing aren’t always transferable to humans. This chip could be the middle ground.

“Instead of performing tests in culture dishes or on mice, we can streamline the process through recreating an organ on a chip,” said student team leader Meagan Tran.

Future Applications

The actual lung on a chip, which will be on public display April 30 at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day, is simple to make once scientists have the right cells. They layer the cells onto a clear silicone mold with a semipermeable membrane in between, and then expose the epithelial layer to gas flow and the endothelial layer to liquid flow. Zohar estimated that, once the engineers have a mold, each silicone “chip” would cost less than a dollar to produce.

Further down the line, the device could also have applications in personalized medicine, allowing a specific person’s cells to try out treatments in the system, so doctors and scientists can determine which treatment is best suited for that person.

“The drugs will be tailored to a particular person, not a particular disease,” Zohar said.

There is also the potential to coordinate with other researchers who are producing similar devices to simulate other organs, such as the gut, the breast or the prostate.

“Eventually, these devices can be hooked together to make a human system, and used to study metabolic absorption,” Tran said.

Project Title: Virtual Reality System for Analyzing Human Brain Neuronal Networks

Team 17061 Members:
Erica Michelle Bosset, optical engineering
Joseph Elliott Clark, systems engineering
John Maximillian DiBaise, biomedical engineering
Josiah Michael McClanahan, electrical and computer engineering
Edward Richter, electrical engineering
Vincent Tso, biomedical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Biomedical Engineering

Project Gives Educators, Doctors New Tools

A student wearing VR goggles and handling two control pads looks around while a nearby monitor displays a computer-generated representation of a brain's white matter fiber tracts.In the iSpace of the University of Arizona Science-Engineering Library, five Engineering Design Program students on a 2018 senior design team take turns donning a virtual reality, or VR, headset and “entering” a room with a gray ceiling and gray walls. Directly in front of them is a shelf with two “brains” on it. Using VR hand controllers, the students pick up the brains from the shelf and examine them from every angle.

One brain is from magnetic resonance imaging. It looks like a scan of the swirly, dual-hemisphere brain with which most people are familiar. The other — a long, spindly representation of the brain’s white matter fiber tracts — is from a diffusion-tensor imaging scan.

Members of the interdisciplinary design team are fine-tuning their computer program to convert 2-D brain scans into 3-D images for viewing in a VR space.

The students, some working in a field outside their majors, say the project has given them a chance to contribute to a rapidly expanding area of technology.

“It’s a pure open-source, make-the-world-a-better-place, play-with-VR project,” said student team leader Joseph Elliott Clark, a systems engineering major. “What’s not to love?”

Benefits of 3-D Brain Images

When researchers and doctors look at a brain scan, they’re evaluating a 3-D object in a 2-D picture, and a lot of information gets lost in translation or becomes difficult to see. Similarly, it is difficult for students to learn about the brain’s complex structure from pictures, drawings, scans and other 2-D representations.

“Usually if we try to learn about the anatomy of the brain, we look at it the from angle one, angle two, angle three,” said Nan-Kuei Chen, UA associate professor of biomedical engineering, who is partnering with the program on the capstone project. “With this interactive mode, it’s not looking at only three angles — it’s looking at all possible angles.”

The senior student project, which will be on public display April 30 at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Design Day, will give researchers access to pre-uploaded brain images, including some that show symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Ultimately, doctors diagnosing and treating brain conditions will be able to upload brain scans of their own patients for 3-D VR viewing.

Educational Add-ons

An added feature for education is audio that explains the functions of each anatomical region of the brain. For example, a user could use hand controls to select the medulla oblongata, and a voice might say, “Vital regions in the medulla oblongata regulate heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, vomiting and coughing.” Another project extra, which Chen envisions as a free resource, is a VR Android app to help teachers explain basic brain anatomy to students.

“This is a very strong multidisciplinary team, and usually you don’t find so many talents all in the same group,” he said.

Members of Team 16003 demonstrate their anti-drone device during Engineering Design Day 2017. The design earned the team $1,000 when they won the TRAX International Best Implementation of Agile Methodology award.

College of Engineering seniors have been working on their capstone projects all year, and April 30 steams ever closer, marking the moment these teams get a chance to showcase their incredible designs.

UA’s student engineers set off from their marks Aug. 24, 2017, during the Open House, where more than 450 students declared their interest in projects from an array of disciplines. When this year’s Design Day kicks off, teams will display 120 projects in the Student Union Ballroom and on the UA Mall for the expert judges, who will scrutinize each design against carefully constructed criteria.

Time is running out, so make your plans to join us for Engineering Design Day 2018! Contact us for details about how to attend.

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Our teams have been working hard all year on a diverse array of interdisciplinary projects, including a radar-based vehicle location and navigation system, technology to actively deny drones from protected airspace, and a “telltale heart” heartbeat detection system.

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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.”

UA alumna Jeni Dye (left) discusses Microsoft’s autonomous mobile telemetry platform project with potential team members.

For the UA Engineering Design Program, the 2017-18 academic year is another record breaker. Enrollment soared well past last year’s 396 mark to 457 students, all of whom have 88 real-world projects to choose from — another all-time high.

During the program’s August 24 Open House in the Student Union Grand Ballroom, students came armed with resumes and elevator pitches while company representatives went all out to recruit them for their projects and, possibly, future employment.

A Engineering Design Program senior talks to Peter Lauderdale (left) about the reusable ballistic parachute system for drones being developed by his startup, Kyrie.

Drone and Optics Projects Are the Future

Program director Ara Arabyan noted that this year’s project lineup is heavy on optics and drones.

“That’s the way the world is going,” he said, adding that there are 23 optics projects on offer and only 43 seniors in optical engineering.

One of the drone projects is sponsored by UA graduate and all-American track star Peter Lauderdale. A first-time sponsor, Lauderdale is motivated by a desire to give back.

“Tucson has been very good to me,” he said.

Lauderdale’s Tucson-based startup, Kyrie, is developing a reusable ballistic parachute system for commercial drones. Students on Team 17078 will be working with the company to create a parachute that can be rapidly deployed during an emergency.

Among the other first-timers is aerospace and defense industry giant General Dynamics.

“They’re coming in big,” Arabyan said. “They are sponsoring five projects, and came to the UA after several years of working with ASU’s design program. They want to compare.”

Three of the General Dynamics projects are aimed at improving the Rescue 21 communications system that the U.S. Coast Guard uses to locate mariners in distress. Students who are selected for the other two projects will be developing a cybersecurity risk plan and enhancing the security of web servers used in the “internet of things.”

Tire manufacturer Continental Automotive Systems came up from Mexico to sponsor two projects. Those projects will improve operations at the company’s Nogales, Sonora, plant. Students on Team 17085 will create a vision system for integration into collaborative robotics, while Team 17086 will develop a smartphone app for plant capacity planning and use.

Program director Ara Arabyan talks to Vector Space Systems engineers Jacob Pavek and Jeremy Harrington.

EDP Alumni Return as Company Reps

In addition to challenging UA Engineering students to solve tough problems, the Design Program provides numerous recruiting opportunities for sponsoring companies. Design Program alumni were heavily represented among Open House reps.

At the Microsoft table, Jeni Dye helped the company find students for its low-cost autonomous mobile telemetry platform project. During the 2016-17 academic year, Dye’s Microsoft-sponsored team developed a decision tool for data center robotics.

Jeremy Harrington returned to campus on behalf of his employer, Vector Space. The Tucson-based company is developing the first launch vehicle designed exclusively for microsatellites.

Vector Space is a first-year sponsor and will be working with UA Engineering students on a process that will chill gaseous propylene to liquid state. The chilling process must happen at a rate capable of loading propellant into an orbital class Vector-R launch vehicle.

“It’s not just a thermodynamic problem,” Harrington said. “It’s a logistical and manufacturing problem.”

On May 1, Philip Ciuffetelli shared the Design Day 2017 Gore & Associates Most Creative Solution Award with four teammates. Now he’s a Southwest Gas engineer with a boss who wants another winner. The company’s project, Shallow Ground Natural Gas Aeration Improvement, is aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the process used to extract gas from the soil after a leak.

What’s Next?

The Open House gave students and companies the opportunity to meet each other face to face. Students and the companies ranked their preferences, and then an algorithm made the team selections. Students who did not get their first choice were assigned to a team. Once the teams were formed, the seniors began work on their projects ahead of Design Day 2018’s April 30 deadline.

Project Title: Method and System for Air Velocity Generated Electrical Power

Team 16028 Members:
Thomas Joseph Deranek, industrial engineering
Austin Karl Hoepfner, mechanical engineering
Hannah Elizabeth Ingle, electrical and computer engineering
Heidi Lynn McCook, electrical and computer engineering
Fabian Javier Medina, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: JP Green Energy


JP Green Energy-Supported Team Tests HVAC Airstream Power Generation

JP Green Energy, a Tech Parks Arizona tenant, is developing technology to help bring the power of wind turbines, widespread throughout rural America, closer to home. The startup is developing a way to generate electrical power from airflow in residential and office heating and cooling ducts.

With the help of 2016-2017 Team 16028’s prototyping and testing, company founder Pierre Abou-Zeid was looking to improve the design of his small-scale energy generating system and move it closer to commercialization. The park’s collaborative atmosphere led him to the Engineering Design Program.

“It was more financially feasible to be a sponsor than hire employees,” said Abou-Zeid, whose company is a client of the park’s business incubator, the Arizona Center for Innovation.

The project marked the first partnership between the program and a startup at Tech Parks Arizona, which connects companies with University resources. But it won’t be the last. Given JP Green Energy’s positive experience, more of the park’s 40-plus companies will be working with student teams from the Engineering Design Program, said Bruce Wright, UA associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona, part of Tech Launch Arizona.

Senior Design Team an Affordable Option

The students were tasked with prototyping and testing designs for easily manufactured HVAC wind turbines. Their goal was to determine the best options for minimum air resistance and maximum power generation from a typical heating, ventilation and air conditioning duct airstream of 750 to 1,000 feet per minute. They accomplished maximum power generation by modifying their blade design for higher torque and incorporating a more efficient generator.

As with any wind turbine technology, blade design is critical to the system. The team tested three turbine blade designs. One was Abou-Zeid’s creation, for which he received a U.S. patent in 2013. The other two, including one created with a 3-D printer at the Arizona Center for Innovation, were developed by the students. They considered blade size, pitch, shape, and insertion depth while focusing on motion, stress and structural integrity.

The student designs were less turbulent but had lower power output than Abou-Zeid’s original blade, which generated 5.73 watts of power output without a turbulence-minimizing cover and 3.81 watts with the cover. The small output numbers represent what can be harvested from the kinetic energy in airflows generated by household heating and cooling equipment. Larger-scale equipment would generate higher outputs.

“As long as you have a minimum airflow of 1,000 feet per minute, this design will work,” said Abou-Zeid. “The team improved on our initial test results. We will use the information to further improve our design and move toward commercialization.”

Project Title: Multifrequency Antenna Mast System for Large Mining TrucksCaterpillar logo

Team 16036 Members:
Robert Bloom, mechanical engineering
Zichong Cai, mechanical engineering
Wyatt Peña, engineering management
Miguel Vasquez, engineering management with mechanical engineering minor (team lead)
Brian Wargasaki, mechanical engineering

Sponsor: Caterpillar

Project Title: Design, Fabrication and Integration of Space Object Characterization Sensors

Team 16065 Members:
Sameep Akhil Arora, mechanical engineering (team lead)
Ryan Bronson, optical sciences and mathematics
Marco Colpo, optical sciences and mathematics
Evelyn Hunten, electrical and computer engineering
Lindsey Jeffries, biomedical engineering and mathematics

Sponsor: UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

For UA Engineering students, the senior capstone project isn’t just a classroom exercise, it’s their first effort as engineering professionals. After Design Day ends, these projects often go right to work.

Antenna Mast Tough Enough for Mining Trucks

When they got together to create their Design Day project, Team 16036 built an antenna mast for one of the world’s toughest environments, the open pit mine.

Sponsored by Caterpillar, the five-member team was asked to create a light, durable and easy-to-service antenna mast for mine site haul trucks. These trucks operate around the clock and are only taken out of service for repairs and maintenance. Due to intense cost pressures in the mining industry, this downtime must be minimized.

Haul trucks can stand as tall as three stories and weigh 250 tons empty. They must stay in constant contact with mine operators and do so via complex electrical systems that enable two-way communications and telemetry through radios, satellite positioning systems, Wi-Fi and cellular data transfer.

Haul trucks need antennas with clear line of sight to both the sky and the offboard transmission stations that are mounted throughout some mines. Because the steel dump body acts as a signal blocker, antennas are mounted on long poles that extend out from and above the truck.

Real-Life Engineering Challenge

During Design Day, Team 16036 displayed their completed system, which included the mast, mounting brackets, antenna mountings and cable routings.
“The students took a new approach at solving a real-life engineering challenge,” said Joe Tabor, Caterpillar engineering project team leader and the students’ mentor. “The antenna mast was installed on a truck at Caterpillar’s Tucson Proving Ground for a proof-of-concept test. With some refinements, the antenna mast could be applied on large mining trucks in the future.”

Caterpillar engineering manager Adam Hales added, “The senior design projects are great for Caterpillar, the University of Arizona, and the students. Each group benefits in different ways. The most obvious are, for the students, learning how to manage a real-world project and, for Caterpillar, getting a product at the end of the project.

“Beyond the product is the interaction and exposure we get with the University and the students. We get to educate the students about Caterpillar and generate excitement in the engineering work we do. This gives us access to emerging engineering talent and future leaders who are looking to start their careers. Overall, it is an excellent opportunity for everyone.”

Building Satellite-Tracking Telescopes

As we become increasingly dependent on satellites, space is subsequently more congested, contested and competitive. Detection and characterization of moving objects in Earth orbit is vital for protecting critical space assets, but it’s a task for which traditional astronomical telescopes are ill-suited.

The five members of Team 16065 rose to this challenge. Although none of them had any prior telescope-building experience, they constructed two 24-inch telescopes that will be used for tracking satellites and space junk. Starizona, a local astronomy business, trained the students and tested the telescopes’ optics.

Team’s Telescopes Net $70,000 in Savings

Frugality was paramount, so the team’s designs included mirrors recycled from the defunct telescope in the old Kuiper observatory. The total $30,000 cost for both telescopes is less than a third of what the UA would have spent on similar off-the-shelf telescopes, two of which would total $100,000.

The team’s faculty adviser, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory assistant professor Vishnu Reddy, said that one of the telescopes is monitoring geostationary satellites from LPL’s sixth floor. It’s the first telescope to be installed on campus since the 1990s. Reddy is still seeking a permanent home for the second telescope.

An expert in space situational awareness, Reddy will be able to use the student-built telescopes to identify unique color signatures of satellites, to find out exactly which one is which.

“The UA is going to be a leader in space situational awareness, and we really want to capitalize on our exceptional undergraduate students,” Reddy said. “This is also workforce development. We need an American workforce that can rise to the challenges of our national security needs and the needs of our nation.”

Reddy plans to advise another Engineering Design team during the coming year. He’ll be challenging the students to build an instrument that will identify the spectral signatures of spacecraft parts.

Project Title: Autonomous Aerial Pollination of Medjool Date Trees

Team 16062 Members:
Fatema Alabdullah, systems and industrial engineering
Victor Cortez, systems and industrial engineering
Sara Harders, biosystems engineering (team lead)
Ricardo Jiménez, biosystems engineering
Brian Normandeau, biosystems engineering
Emma Skidmore, biosystems engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Project Challenges Team to Expand Skill Set

Team 16062 with Best Overall Design checkMembers of Team 16062 may have been out of their element with welding, machining, wiring and coding, but they worked overtime to develop new skills and emerged victorious on Design Day 2017.

The six students created a more efficient, semi-autonomous pollination drone for Medjool date palms for the Gowan Company in Yuma, Arizona, and won the $2,500 Raytheon Award for Best Overall Design.

For most teams, passing the Engineering Design Program critical design review means it’s time to order parts. For Team 16062, it meant it was time to make parts, and team members met the challenges with broad smiles and hearty laughter.

They spent many weeks during the spring semester in what team lead Sara Harders called “the learning curve phase,” including “accidentally melting things” in the welding process.

From Low Tech to High Tech
Medjool date growers already use a low-tech pollination system with their high-tech drones, which carry a nylon stocking filled with pollen over female trees, and the wind blows the pollen onto the date palms. Farmers approximate wind patterns by kicking dirt into the air, then the drone pilot estimates where the pollen will fall from the way the dirt falls.

Team 16062’s semi-autonomous system requires only one operator on the ground. A user interface integrates data from a camera, weather stations and ground control to determine flower maturity and ideal flight path, and to produce collision avoidance warnings.

The system includes an automated egg-size pollinator that protects spores from inclement weather and drops a precise payload, reducing waste. The entire assembly – including the drone – meets a strict weight limit of 1,200 grams, or 2.64 pounds. During each flight, the drone pollinates 12 trees in a quarter-acre plot.

Long-Distance Collaboration
Unlike most UA Engineering Design teams, 16062 wasn’t exclusively composed of students in Tucson. The five Tucson students collaborated with Yuma-based classmate Victor Cortez, a systems and industrial engineering major, and UA faculty in Yuma. The team also used laboratory and shop facilities in both locations.

The University of Arizona Engineering Design Program is extremely grateful to the 122 judges who helped make Design Day 2017 such a success.

Joining us for the May 1 event were representatives from companies such as Raytheon, Microsoft, Caterpillar, Honeywell and Ventana Medical, along with several academic units, providing a wide range of engineering expertise.

On behalf of our faculty, staff and students, thank you for your enthusiasm and assistance.

By the numbers:

  • 122 judges
  • 60 corporate organizations
  • 17 UA organizations
  • 105 projects
  • 536 students
  • 28 awards
  • $25,900 in prizes

See the full list of award-winning projects.

Our faculty, staff and students appreciate your vital contributions to Design Day.

Check out the innovations from some of the UA College of Engineering’s brightest stars, who took home a total of $25,000 in scholarship awards from such industry names as Raytheon, Microsoft, Caterpillar and more! Our Flickr collection has more than 180 pictures of Design Day, highlighting the technological prowess of the UA College of Engineering students who helped make it happen.