| 03.18.2018

Solving problems


More than 50 teams of senior engineering students have an opportunity to display their skills during the 21st Engineering Design Expo today.

The Engineering Design Expo features several booth and poster presentations, 20-minute technical sessions and a keynote speaker. The event is open to the public.

These seniors have been working in teams to develop their projects over the course of the past year. Robert Patton, communications supervisor for the College of Engineering, said the expo is the culmination of student efforts in the senior capstone program — a year-long, six credit class that requires students to solve real-world problems.

Patton said several of the projects are sponsored by the school’s industry partners.  In these situations, the business may approach the engineering students for help addressing a problem within a product, or coming up with a new way to use resources within the company.

“For example, an industry partner provides a problem … they want to try to solve,” Patton said. “So they say to this particular team of seniors ‘okay, can you try to solve this problem?’ and that’s their project, solving the problem.”

There are a variety of topics involved in the student projects. Patton said one team developed a software program to solve problems using robotic arms that were a donation from Boeing.

In another project, Ingrid Kooda — a mechanical engineering major — is on a team working on robotic submarine technology in a joint project with Washington State University. Kooda said her team’s project has involved a lot of computer engineering. She said they have been working on the project for BP in Alaska.

Nate Pueschel’s team has also been working with robotics. Their project involved a small robotic vacuum, which they remade into a scrubbing robotic cleaner.  Their goal is to make a machine that can successfully clean a room on its own, which would operate on a timer and run late at night after people had left the building.

Patton said the design expo is important, because of the people who get involved with it.

“Expo’s a signature event, not only for the college, but it’s also a marquee event for the university — because it not only brings in so many people, but it also brings back people,” Patton said. “We have over 50 judges that are either alumni or members of our industry partners.”

Joe Law, associate dean of engineering undergraduates, said there will be 58 judges this year. Patton said many of the alumni judges have a personal connection with the expo, after participating in it during their time at the university.

The honorary chair and keynote speaker, Virginia B. Valentine, is a UI alumna. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1980, and got a master’s degree from the University of Nevada in 2000. Valentine’s speech is on the importance of failure in succeeding — both in engineering, and in life.

There will be about 500 junior high and high school students in attendance at this year’s symposium. Patton said this is a significant number of students to visit, and one that’s possible largely because of the expo’s sponsors. These students will tour the college of engineering, the college of music and the Kibbie Dome.

“For the seniors, they’ve been working for four or five years, and they’re showcasing their work, and some of their work is really cool — so that’s real exciting,” Law said. “It’s really exciting to have that many high school students come in. They’re coming from Boise, they’re coming from Sandpoint, they’re coming from all over.”

Law said the students get a chance to get a look into the world of engineering, and see what it’s actually like. He said that at some point, the advisory board — the group of organizers who organize the event — would like to expand the event so these students can get a better glimpse of university life.

Daphne Jackson can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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