On April 14th, I returned to my alma mater to serve as a judge for the 2016 UC Tech Expo.
As a part of the engineering curriculum at the University of Cincinnati, students are expected to complete a project of significant technical complexity. Over the course of their final year, students identify a problem they have encountered in their co-op work, laboratory classes, or personal experience, for which they think they can find a technical solution. They each develop several concepts to address the problem, select one of those concepts, and start constructing their respective designs. Ultimately, each student tests his or her machine, submits a formal report, presents the project to faculty, and displays the work at an annual technology exposition at the university.
Projects this year included a retrofit kit to improve handling in vintage cars, a computer-controlled pumpkin carver, an entrant for the televised BattleBot competition in California, a propeller-less fishing boat, and more. The best-of-show winner was an innovative plastic recycler aimed at the growing number of users of home 3-D printers. This recycler easily fits on a tabletop, and re-molds plastic scrap into a filament that can be fed back into the 3-D printer for re-use.
Other innovations included an impressive group project to develop a self-contained wastewater treatment plant. Three students worked together to address the need for a rapidly deployable unit to process residential wastewater. The unit they developed is a 1/4-scale model of a shipping container featuring a 4-stage filtration/remediation process able to support hundreds of households. The unit is intended to prevent harmful human waste from entering waterways in areas where wastewater treatment is nonexistent or nonfunctional, and requires only electrical power to be put in operation.
Another team project involved a vehicle which has been entered into this year’s Society of Automotive Engineers “Baja” off-road vehicle competition. For the Baja competition, students from around the world build vehicles to compete on dirt tracks for acceleration, maneuverability, traction, and endurance. UC has entered many times in the past, often using and re-using an old frame. Realizing the design limitations of their existing frame, the UC team totally redesigned it and scratch-built a new one to compete in the upcoming 2016 competition. They will find how successful their re-design is at the Baja competition in Rochester, New York, this June.
The projects on display at Tech Expo indicate that there are some talented engineers entering the workforce. To see what they might be doing if they end up at EWI, visit our Advanced Automation group here.