Engineering Expo Showcases Students' Ingenuity and Teamwork
As part of their capstone projects, seniors in the Tagliatela College of Engineering collaborated on real-world projects while learning from industry professionals. They presented their projects, posters, and prototypes as part of the University's recent Capstone Design Expo.
May 31, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Over the course of two semesters, Tim Renkowsky '23 and his classmates worked together to design a system to assist with the rehabilitation of a local dam. While working with each other and with industry professionals, they applied what they learned in the classroom as they designed the system, taking into account everything from weather conditions to water volume.
The students' plan was to reconstruct the 160-year-old Lake Whitney Dam in nearby Hamden, Conn. They designed a dewatering system, which focuses on the removal of ground or surface water, as part of their capstone project. The experience enabled them to work with industry advisers, including professionals at the Regional Water Authority (RWA).
"I learned about the importance of teamwork from working with my classmates, as well as with multidisciplinary professors and the professionals who helped us with our project," said Renkowsky, a new civil engineering grad. "This was more than just a project. It was a life experience."
'I can ask for help if I need it'
Renkowsky and his teammates presented their work to the University community as part of the Tagliatela College of Engineering's annual Capstone Design Expo. The event featured students from all disciplines of engineering, from chemical engineering to computer science. It also included several multidisciplinary projects. Students presented their posters to members of the University community in the Beckerman Recreation Center, discussing their work, showing off prototypes, and sharing what they learned. Teams of students also presented their work in a series of oral presentations.
Karrie LeDuc-Santoro '23 explained her poster detailing her project that "married" cybernetworks and software. She used complex mathematics to create an algorithm that "no one could break or find vulnerabilities in." She then used this to develop a secure key fob for cars.
A new cybersecurity and networks grad, LeDuc-Santoro says what she learned from the experience transcended cybersecurity and mathematics.
"It really helps to have a team to work with that has the skillsets you need," she said. "When I go into my career, I now understand the importance of working where I can ask for help if I need it. I can also extend that to others."
'The effort they've put in'
The expo drew myriad faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as industry professionals and students' families, who were eager to interact with the students and learn about their projects. Kristine Horvat, Ph.D., says she was impressed by the students' ingenuity and dedication.
"This is the culmination of a year of their work," said Dr. Horvat, assistant professor of chemical engineering. "It's truly amazing to see the effort they've put in and to see how they approach a problem with lots of possibilities and solutions So much work went into these projects."
"These projects play an important role in preparing our students to work in their respective professions," added Ronald Harichandran, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, dean of the Tagliatela College of Engineering and vice provost for research. "More and more companies sponsor projects and pose problems that are of relevance and interest to them. Students work closely with industry advisers in evaluating design options, selecting the optimal solution, and building or designing the final prototype or process."
'A lot of moving parts'
While collaborating over the course of two semesters, students complete projects that enable them to learn best practices, as well as important skills such as technical communication and project management. Many teams collaborate with industry professionals and companies that pose timely and industry-relevant problems for them to address. For Thomas Erdman '23 and his teammates, that meant collaborating with Abcam, a leading biotechnology company based in Branford, Conn.
A mechanical engineering major, Erdman was part of a multidisciplinary team that designed and built an automated system to perform two critical steps of the Western Blot Process, which is used to separate and identify proteins. The process, which now operates manually, can, says Erdman, be time consuming. He and his teammates developed a system that would streamline it, dramatically reducing the time it takes.
"This was a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively," he said. "I learned that since we were presenting this to a company, we had to also create a manual for it. I've brought up this project in every job interview I've had, and it has been very helpful. Everything we've done is exactly what we'll be doing in the industry. Our senior projects are so important for job interviews, since companies treat it as real-world experience."
'It prepared us for what's to come'
Daryl DeCohen '23, a new mechanical engineering grad, and his teammates collaborated with Edgewell Personal Care, a multinational consumer products company based in Shelton, Conn. They were tasked with designing and building a tumbler feeder mechanism that would, ultimately, enhance the company's current system and yield a faster production rate for razor handles. DeCohen says he was pleased with the working prototype they created.
"This was a great group collaboration," he said. "While it was time consuming, I learned so much about the design aspect. I enjoyed the experience, and it prepared us for what's to come in the future."