Senior Design Project
In order to graduate from Cedarville University, every engineer must complete a senior design project. Some of these are one time projects, such as designing a wheelchair wheel cleaner, or, in one popular case, designing a mechanical arm for a girl who loves to play the violin. Other projects are year-to-year competitions, such as a supermileage car and, of course, Solar Splash.
Solar Splash History
Very little is ever said about Cedarville's Solar Splash experiences before 2004. In those years, Cedarville used a lightweight, canoe-shaped displacement hull. That design, though it had its advantages, was a source of many frustrations and lots of participation plaques.
Cedarville first competed in Solar Splash in 1997, finishing 12th out of 17 teams. Unfortunately, the next year they didn't even qualify. In '99, they placed 9th out of 12, but in 2000 the boat didn't make it to the competition. The last time Cedarville brought the old canoe-shaped hull to Solar Splash was 2001, when it finished 10th out of 16 teams. Cedarville brought no boat to the competition in either 2002, or 2003. However, in 2004 the senior design team produced a new style of hull, developed primarily by Cedarville senior Brian Montague. Thunderbird Formula Boats fabricated the new hull from a plug made by Cedarville students. Those seniors outfitted the boat with completely new motors, propellers, and other equipment, made mostly from parts donated by generous sponsors. That year, Cedarville finished third in the endurance event and technical report scoring, and scored decently in all other categories (such as qualifying points, the visual presentation, and workmanship). Finally, they won the sprint competition in the famous photo finish of 2004, earning Cedarville University its first Solar Splash World Championship.
Below is an article from a 2005 Cedarville University Engineering News publication.
"Seniors Gain'REAL-WORLD' Design Experience"
Mechanical engineering seniors are getting a taste of real-world design experience as they apply engineering skills, learned in their four years of college, to open-ended design problems. This year's projects include biomechanics, auto racing, wind energy, and solar boat racing.
Jason Auyer, John Simmons, Matt Spena, and Mary Todd are working on a second-generation device that measures the size of an intramedullary canal of a human femur being prepared for hip transplant. A senior team from the Class of 2004 designed and built a prototype; the '05 team is using their work as a springboard to a commercially viable design. The '05 team is using fiber optics to measure the size of the canal. As the student inserts the probe into the bone, the measurements are displayed instantaneously on a computer monitor. The students use nonlinear finite element analysis to predict how well different size implants will fit. If this idea works, it would be quite beneficial for surgeons in the operating room.
Mark Caterinacci, Emilee Fairbanks, Matt Sterner, and Steve Walters are working to validate a patented design for a single-bladed windmill. This project began three years ago. This year, the design effort is focused on rebuilding the blade, ensuring the structural integrity of the entire windmill, providing an adequate sink for the harnessed energy, providing Instrumentation to monitor the system status, and developing experimental data to validate the design. If the patent claims are validated, the single-bladed windmill could be a low-cost power solution anywhere, but especially in Third World countries.
Brian Allen, Ivan Davis, Cody Finnegan, Aaron Hofner, Micah Sweeley, Dan Vogel, and Ryan Willaman are totally redesigning the Mini Baja- Vehicle to race in the 2005 competition. The team is trying a novel approach by designing a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a new and unique feature - manual override to give the driver quicker acceleration and pickup on steep inclines. The team is also designing and building a racetrack on campus to test the vehicles, hopefully before the 2005 competition.
Scott DeClark, Ross Hauswald, Tim Kaminsky, Rich Lebedda, Seth Lynch, Paul Milby, Mike Mossop, Stuart Sheldon, and Athan Waldron are optimizing the components of Cedarville's solar-electric boat. The goal is to improve the boat's performance to help Cedarville defend its tide as the Solar Splash- 2004 Collegiate World Champions of solar/electric boating. The team plans to drastically reduce the weight of the boat by using infusion molding to make a new hull, and they are also making a new solar array to replace the worn-out, seven-year-old panels used last year. The team is also designing new propellers, and they have the ambitious goal of designing a variable pitch prop that will give them both good acceleration and a high top-end speed for the sprint event, a race that Cedarville won in a photo finish in 2004.
These design projects give students a breadth of topics and hands-on experience that is invaluable when they enter industry. For example, one of our grads interviewed with a company seeking an engineer with three to five years of experience. After he showed the interviewing engineer his senior design project, he got the job.
Electrical engineering seniors are getting a taste of real-world design experience as they apply engineering skills, learned in their four years of college, to open-ended design problems. This year's project is another joint venture with industry.
For the past three years, Cedarville senior electrical engineering students have been working with engineers from Yellow Springs Instruments (YSI) to assist them in designing electronic instruments to solve specific problems pertinent to their business. The cycle begins during the summer months when faculty members meet with YSI engineers to discuss potential projects. By the start of the school year, the project specifications are prepared and presented to the students. The class divides into teams of three to four students that form pseudo corporations with a CEO, a CFO, and a CTO (Chief Technical Officer). Each student corporation receives a budget and meets with the customer (i.e., YSI engineers) to refine and clarify the specifications. As a result of the meetings, each student corporation submits a product proposal which must be approved by YSI and the course instructor. Once approved, each team begins to design and make a prototype for the project.
YSI Engineer Jamie Lussier said, "This is our third year of working with the senior electrical engineering class on a design project focused on real-world instrumentation, namely the YSI Life Sciences line of biochemistry analyzers. Our past projects have included the development of diagnostic hardware and software for manufacturing and field-testing our products. The objective of the 2004-05 project is to design a prototype of a next-generation instrument. ... This industrial partnership is a win-win situation, in which the electrical engineering students take on a real-life product development project and YSI benefits from the infusion of new ideas presented by the students. As an engineer, I find it very rewarding to see the student teams progress with their projects throughout their senior year, and I am always impressed with the end product. Cedarville electrical engineering students and their instructors are of a very high caliber."
We at Cedarville are grateful to YSI for partnering with us and providing not only projects for our students, but also interaction with engineers in a corporate setting and a breadth of experience that prepares our students for their first engineering job.