Capping off the capstones

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.