By Emily Dieckman, College of Engineering
In engineering education, students learn to befriend discomfort, whether it’s eating bugs, public speaking, or dealing with failure.
During the University of Arizona College of Engineering’s Craig M. Berge Design Day 2022, students were able to celebrate the sense of accomplishment that often comes from the other side of discomfort, as the college celebrated its reunion in person after two years of Design Days being held virtually due to the pandemic.
Design Day — named after Craig M. Berge, a College of Engineering alumnus and longtime college supporter who died in 2017 — is an annual opportunity for senior engineers to showcase their year’s results projects to the public and to hundreds of judges. This year, 97 teams of students, who completed projects requested by industrial and academic sponsors, competed for $46,250 in prizes.
“I talk a lot about the big challenges in society around food and water, energy, healthcare and security, and what I saw today was a certain number of great projects that convinced me that we are in good shape, to move forward, to solve these problems”, David W. Hahn, said Dean Craig M. Berge of the College of Engineering after Tuesday’s Design Day. “When you talk about problem solving, it comes down to one key word: design. Engineers design solutions to problems. Today we come together to celebrate the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
A team – Team 22030 – won the Dean’s Craig M. Berge Award of $7,500 for Most Outstanding Project, for his Blinding Resonant Incapacitating Disposable Transmitter, or BRITE. Traditional flashbang grenades emit bright light and a loud sound to disorient an attacker, but can also be potentially harmful to the person using them. The team developed a reusable, battery-powered alternative designed to be safe for the user.
Team members created three complete prototypes of the device and several dozen prototypes of individual parts. According to them, one of the keys to their success is that they started early and practiced often.
“Most of the products sitting on that table weren’t working,” said optical science and engineering Major Alex Saint-Pierre, designating a set of 3D printed parts. “Did we fail? Totally. But we failed early on, so we were able to fix that.”
Students were drawn to the project for its many components and for its application in areas such as defense and law enforcement.
“You could give this to law enforcement and it could be usable. It’s something that woke me up, and I can see it in the real world,” the team leader said. Nathan Busaka mechanical Engineering Major. “This is my first time leading a large-scale team, especially in the engineering field. Being constantly surrounded by a group of smart people, I have to be on top of my game.”
If at first you don’t succeed…
Another team spent Design Day serving up free samples of protein bars with a special ingredient: mealworms. The idea of eating insects is gaining popularity as some experts predict that the world’s population will soon exceed our ability to produce traditional sources of food. Insects need less water, land and feed than traditional livestock, and an entire insect can be eaten, compared to 50% or less of an animal like a cow.
“We thought if we put something in a protein bar it would be more accepted by people, rather than giving them a mealworm steak,” he said. Chemical Engineer Major Collin Patrick Quenelle. “We were able to extract 23% of the protein from the mealworm.”
“We only got 4% the first time around,” added his teammate and fellow chemical engineering major. Brett Aiden Cernichnoting the team’s progress throughout the year.
Sustainability was a common theme for this year’s Design Day projects. Other teams have sought to address global food supply issues with projects related to vertical farming, renewable energy storage and the use of drones to detect stress levels in crops.
Drones were another popular topic. A team has created a low-cost drone tracker that uses visible light to detect drones, which are often too small to show up on radar.
“We learned a lot of things that weren’t taught to us in class because they can’t teach it in class because you have to learn from experience,” said electrical and computer engineering team member Brad Zimmerman. “We’ve all, at some point, had to work on something that wasn’t our strength.”
Sponsors and judges recruit top talent
Jason Licamele, head of discovery and optimization at global agriculture company Bayer Crop Science – one of the many corporate sponsors of Design Day – said about 60% of employees at Bayer’s Marana offices are UArizona graduates. Licamele, who obtained a doctorate in agriculture and biosystems engineering from UArizona in 2009, expects the company to sponsor other projects in the future.
“We see the University of Arizona as a place to recruit talent,” said Licamele, who oversaw student work to create an imaging system to detect crop stress. “They did a great job. And I’m so excited to have it in person again.”
Paul Thompson, director of engineering for aerospace company Meggitt Tucson, participated in several design days to support Meggitt trainees. This year he participated as both a judge and a project sponsor for a team that built a tool to apply a heating blanket to lithium battery cells.
“I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and presentation skills of the students. I can tell you that I graduated in 2004 and they blew me away,” said the former aerospace engineer. “I think the university program trains these students really well for the industry.”
Students envision a bright future
Many students have acquired skills during their projects that have prepared them for success in their careers. Optical Sciences and Engineering Major Avalon McLeodThe team created a hyperspectral camera that won the $1,500 II-VI Aerospace & Defense Award for Best Optical Systems Design. She is going to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer to work on another hyperspectral camera.
“They certainly became interested in me largely because of this project, including the experience I gained with nanofabrication,” she said. “I will definitely use my experience and expertise in my career.”
Biomedical engineering student Clara Mersiowski said that while she learned a lot over the year, her favorite part of the process was the Design Day itself.
“I learned a lot about materials science. I also learned a lot about interdisciplinary projects and working with other engineers and applying them,” she said. “It’s so much fun to be able to show people what we’ve worked so hard on and deliver product to our sponsor.”
Brian Fairesan electrical and computer engineering specialist whose team won the Rincon Research Award of $1,500 for Best Presentation and the Sharon ONeal Award of $1,000 for Best Integration, Verification and Validation for their project to create a continuously variable electronic transmission, echoed the sentiment: “There’s nothing quite like driving with a transmission you built.”
Check out the full list of this year’s Design Day winners on the News from the College of Engineering website.