The University of Arizona’s 14th annual Engineering Design Day challenged about 500 students with almost 100 original projects. Some teams’ designs helped launch startups; others enriched the offerings of their sponsoring companies.

Along the way, students learned to work in multidisciplinary teams and solve a wide array of problems — from playing catchup after a late project start to dealing with power lines blocking a project’s route to campus.

Here’s how four design teams met the challenge.

Nailing a Moving Target

Boeing logoProject Title: Stabilized Helicopter Landing Platform

Team 15019 Members:
Nicholas Hand, systems engineering
Benjamin Kaufman, mechanical engineering
Jeremy Loo, mechanical engineering
Christopher McEvoy, mechanical engineering
Ray Weaver, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Boeing

Team 15019 at Design Day 2016Take five civilian undergraduates from systems, mechanical, and electrical and computer engineering, aim their expertise at one of the toughest problems in military aviation, and what do you get? A working prototype of a shipboard helicopter landing platform that remains stable in stormy seas.

A video shown at Team 15019’s Design Day booth vividly illustrated the problem. A ship pitched and rolled as a helicopter hovered above the landing platform. Despite several attempts, the pilot could not land.

The team’s “stable table” could be part of the solution, and Boeing will use it to demonstrate the complexities of landing helicopters on ships at sea.

During Design Day, Jeremy Loo and his teammates took turns tilting the platform as the stabilizing mechanism kept the model helicopter horizontal, providing visual proof that their prototype met Boeing’s system requirements.

Cleaning Up Breweries

UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering logoProject Title: Sustainable Microbrewery

Team 15075 Members:
Jacqueline Barrow, chemical engineering
Ryan Dormond, chemical engineering
Christopher Hawkins, chemical engineering
Sheng-Shuan Yeh, chemical engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Team 15075 at Design Day 2016Design Day gave Team 15075 plenty of opportunities to say no with a smile.

The question: Do you have samples? (Sorry to disappoint, but it’s a dry event.)

The team of chemical engineering students took on a problem near and dear to environmentally conscious beer drinkers: how to reduce the waste stream leaving the brewery.

They designed a microbrewery that lowers biological oxygen demand. That’s the amount of oxygen microorganisms need to break down soluble organic material before it reaches a municipal wastewater system.

It worked, said team member Ryan Dormond, but it wouldn’t be profitable for a small startup.

“Big brewers could do it incrementally, over time,” he explained.

What functions from an engineering standpoint, the team learned, is not always practical in the business world.

Delivering Fresh Vegetables to Food Deserts

UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering logoProject Title: Shipping Container Greenhouse

  • Team 15090: Controlled Environment for Plant Reproduction
  • Team 15091: Irrigation Infrastructure
  • Team 15092: Controlled Environment for Mushroom Production

Team 15090 Members:
Maya Aldaghi, biosystems engineering
Riley Anderson, biosystems engineering
Brooke Christine Conrardy, biosystems engineering
Michael Lopez, biosystems engineering
Haley Odom, biosystems engineering
Michael Pearse, biosystems engineering

Team 15091 Members:
Nicole Xuan Bui, biosystems engineering
Patrick William Bush, biosystems engineering
Brooke Christine Conrardy, biosystems engineering
Ashley C. Hanno, biosystems engineering
Victoria Alexandra Karlsson, biosystems engineering
Claire Kristin Tritz, biosystems engineering

Team 15092 Members:
Perla E. Ballesteros, biosystems engineering
Brooke Christine Conrardy, biosystems engineering
Qianwen Luo, biosystems engineering
Elan Snitkin, biosystems engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Inside the shipping container greenhouse at Design Day 2016Transporting most finished products to Design Day is easy. Just put it in a car and drive it to campus.

Not so for the trio of teams working on the shipping container greenhouse. They had to request a UA-owned tractor-trailer and driver, plan a route and get permits from the city of Tucson.

The initial plan hit a roadblock — the Sun Link Streetcar. Its power lines above Park Avenue hung too low. Time for Plan B: getting to campus via Campbell Avenue.

Everything went flawlessly until the final corner outside Old Main. The truck jumped the curb, came down hard, and “Our seedlings fell through the holes in the hydroponic rack,” said team leader Brooke Conrardy. The hard landing proved fatal to 50 percent of the greenhouse plants.

The shipping container greenhouse is the centerpiece of a multiyear UA project that will help eliminate food deserts, areas without access to affordable, nutritious food.

The greenhouse includes a student-designed and -constructed hydroponic rack and tray system for growing lettuce and a sealed mushroom-growing chamber kept at 90 percent humidity. The greenhouse project will continue during the 2016-2017 academic year and will eventually be donated to a nonprofit organization — like a food bank — to grow fresh vegetables for people in need.

Starting Late, Finishing Strong

UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering logoProject Title: Macadamia Nut Harvester

Team 15094 Members:
Kenneth Hickman, biosystems engineering
Bryce Kirkpatrick, biosystems engineering
Ryan Neighbor, biosystems engineering
Marko Obradov, biosystems engineering

Sponsor: UA Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Team 15094 at Design Day 2016It was all smiles in Team 15094’s corner of the UA Mall, where a robotic macadamia nut-harvesting vehicle cruised around picking up nuts — to the delight of visitors of all ages.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Hawaiian-shirted quartet of biosystems engineering students. The harvester prototype had a rocky start.

“We didn’t have a project for two months, and we didn’t start building until January,” recalled Bryce Kirkpatrick.

“Building” meant drawing on members’ in-depth electrical and mechanical expertise and fabricating the harvester from the ground up. No outsourcing for this team — they did all the work themselves.

The robotic harvester will replace at least three types of heavy machinery used on Kawainui Farm on Hawaii’s Big Island — helping the farm harvest nuts faster and eliminating the cost of harvesting by hand.


For more information about the projects at Engineering Design Day 2016, please see the recap in Arizona Engineer.