Northeastern University

Capping off the capstones

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I got to go on another field trip on Wednesday (have I mentioned recently how much I love my job?). Not only did it mean navigating the infamous tunnels for the first time, but I also got to meet some brilliant students with even more impressive implementation skilz.

Two colleagues and I made our way down to Haydn Hall, where we met some of the Electrical and Computer Engineering teams who won this year’s ECE capstone competition. I was blown away by the level of ingenuity among the crowd.

The first place winner of the whole shebang made a robot called iCRAFT (eye Controlled Robotic Arm Feeding Technology — why do engineers love acronyms so much?). One of the iCRAFT team members had experience working as a care taker in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He, and other care givers the group interviewed, said having the freedom to feed oneself is among the highest priorities for paraplegics. “There’s no right pace,” he said. The team used this as inspiration to develop the first machine ever made that gives paraplegics the freedom to feed themselves at their own pace, using eye tracking technology. Here it is in action:

 

The students involved in this project were Pedro Lopes, Basel Magfory, James Barron, Mohamed Kante, Nicholas Aquino, Rishi V Faldu, and Ryan LaVoie. Professor Waleed Meleis was the faculty advisor.


One of two second place winners, the Board Games over IP group tackled a much different sort of problem — our increasing dependence on screen-based gaming! I actually didn’t know this was a problem at all until I saw their beautiful creation. It’s a real deal chess board (not the computer screen kind) that is connected to the internet and uses magnetic game pieces. It allows you to play an opponent on the other side of the planet, but it feels like your playing a ghost on the other side of the table. When a player moves a piece, magnetic sensors under the board detect the play and transmit it over the internet to the opponent’s board, which moves the corresponding piece. It’s hard to describe because there’s nothing quite like it out there. Here’s a video to give you a better idea:

 

The students involved in this project were Jeff Geisperger, Desmond Yeung, Eric Vande Griek, Joao Mendes, Joseph Dynes, Matt Zabatta, and Scott Bielski. Professor Waleed Meleis was the faculty advisor.

 

Switching gears once again brings us to the HyCycle, the other second place winner. This is a bicycle add on that allows you to harvest your pedal power for use later on when you’re just too tired. I biked to work for the first time ever this week (this is a major accomplishment for me — I once cried trying to cross the Jamaicaway on a bike). The way home was significantly more challenging than the way in, as I live on the top of a hill. I can definitely see this technology coming in handy.

The HyCycle consists of a bike wheel fitted with a bunch of magnets and coils. As the wheel spins, the coils pass across the magnets generating a magnetic field which is transformed into electrical energy and stored in a battery. All of this required a slew of various expertise: computer engineering, hand coil wrapping, electrical wiring, you name it. The idea is that you’d be able to switch this out with a regular wheel on a regular bicycle, instantly turning it into an electrical one that doesn’t require a plug. Pretty nifty!

The students involved in this project were Scott Rand, Brad Courville, Brian Carbone, Brian Martins, Eddie Vaisman, and Jason Rudbart. Professor Waleed Meleis was, once again, the faculty advisor.

 

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.


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