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Engineering capstones receive national recognition, showcase emerging technologies
Author: Julie Rutherford, Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Posted: June 4, 2014

As part of year-end celebrations, the graduating class of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University (PSU) will exhibit their Senior Capstone projects later this week.

PSU’s acclaimed Senior Capstone program pairs every senior with a community partner to work on a year-long, team-based project. Engineering students are typically presented with a design challenge sponsored by a local high tech company, utility, government or non-profit agency.

This year’s highlights include an intelligent device to alert motorcyclists and other vulnerable motorists of oncoming threats, a carbon fiber rocket airframe produced using a student-designed curing oven, and a selection of fully-functional 3D-printed mechanical machines produced and assembled using only one print run.

Intelligent Motorcycle Safety Device
A team of four Electrical and Computer Engineering students, Nikolas Davis, Matthew Stehr, Tuan Hoang, Cuc Duong, developed "SAFE (Situational Awareness Fault-Finder Extension)," a peripheral device to keep bicyclists and motorcyclists safe by detecting roadway hazards such as distracted or erratic drivers. The team was advised by Prof. Mark Faust and Prof. Marek Perkowski of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Their system uses a single rear-facing camera and recognizes moving vehicles. It tracks the vehicle’s position, direction, and speeds and then sends an audible alert to the rider whenever its position and speed present a potential hazard. The alert’s frequency, volume, and stereophonic data are used as cues to indicate where the vehicle is and how fast it’s approaching, allowing the driver to avoid a collision.

This project took second place in the Cornell Cup USA, presented by Intel, a prestigious national embedded design competition held in early May at Walt Disney World in Florida. A total of 33 finalist teams competed in the Cornell Cup, including a second PSU team, many from top national engineering schools.

"For the last year or two, PSU's electrical and computer engineering department has worked hard to encourage and reward creativity with tools like the Electronics Prototyping Lab and the Innovation Grant. I think this environment has really encouraged independent development," said team member, Nikolas Davis.

Other Electrical and Computer Engineering students will demonstrate projects that tackle everything from power and energy needs to medical and fitness applications.

Carbon-Fiber Rocket Airframe
Mechanical and Materials Engineering students Jack Slocum, Sam Arnold, Barrett Strecker, Rob Melchione, and Tung Nguyen will present a carbon fiber rocket airframe that will be used by the Portland State Aerospace Society for the amateur rocketry club’s next launch vehicle. The new rocket body is approximately 11 feet long and is anticipated to be 80% than previous versions composed of aluminum. It is made from composite materials donated by ACES, an industrial supplier for Boeing. Fabrication of the 3D-printed nylon carbon fiber parts was made possible by support from NW Rapid Manufacturing.

The team will also present the automated carbon composite curing oven engineered by the team to produce the carbon fiber cylinders.

“The temperature controls mimic the electrical controls of the projects we designed in our freshman year mechanical engineering class,” explains Arnold. “It’s a credit to the College that students are given the opportunity to dive into the engineering process right away through hands-on learning. It builds our confidence as engineers early so that we can take full advantage of our time as students.”

3D Printed Machines
A second Mechanical and Materials Engineering capstone team, sponsored by 3D Systems, will display a variety of fully-functional 3D-printed machines. These mechanical objects emerge from a 3D printer with no assembly required or extra components added. They include a small-scale catapult, two toy cars and a toy motorcycle, a clock and a carousel. This project is part of an ongoing effort to perfect the art of “Digital Addimata” or “DigiAddimata” a term coined by Trevor Snyder, Principal Engineer at 3D Systems, to describe digitally-created machines that are developed layer-by-layer or pixel-by-pixel.

Mechanical and Materials Engineering capstones, including the carbon fiber rocket body, DigiAddimata, and more will be on display Thursday, June 5 from 2-3 p.m. in the Engineering building Atrium, 1930 SW 4th Ave, Portland Ore.

Electrical and Computer Engineering capstones, including the SAFE (Situational Awareness Fault‐Finder Extension), will be on display Friday, June 6 from 2-5 p.m. in the Engineering building Atrium, 1930 SW 4th Ave, Portland Ore.

Students and faculty will be available to discuss each project.