After an intensive semester of designing, building and testing, students from the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME) displayed their senior design projects at the first annual AME Senior Project Showcase.
The event, held in the Vivian Hall Breezeway and Plaza on December 1, included work from 126 students enrolled in the Senior Projects Laboratory course (AME 441). Broken into teams of three or four students, groups selected projects that covered topics such as robotic mapping, energy harvesting, plasma actuators and drag reduction.
“These classes are designed to make engineers out of students,” said Julian Domaradzki, department chair. “It’s not just studying a particular subject in class and solving problems on paper, but implementing knowledge that they acquired in regular classes into building something.”
Using their experience on extracurricular teams, some students used their project as an opportunity to delve deeper into concepts and questions their team had struggled with. Members of the USC Racing team, which competes in an annual competition held by the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE), designed adjustable anti-roll bars for their car, as well as new suspension instrumentation. Students from the Recumbent Vehicle Design Team (RVDT) developed an energy recovery system to store kinetic energy lost during breaking and then reuse it. They plan to implement their work on their team’s vehicle to improve their lap time at this year’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Human Powered Vehicle Challenge.
“These design teams often have elements to them that they just haven’t had enough time to fully vet out, or some new ideas or new technology that they want to incorporate in their design,” said John McArthur, course instructor and organizer of the showcase. “It’s an opportunity for them to explore that in a less deadline-driven way and really understand the theory and analysis and to do a full test on it.”
Other students found inspiration from their involvement with research groups. Jordi Sim, who works at the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and his teammates Alden Falcon and Ivan Fuentes, created a working aerial robot that flies like a bird. Powered by flapping mechanical wings, AIROS, short for Avian Inspired Robotic System, can be used for bird abatement in farmland.
“These classes are designed to make engineers out of students,” said Julian Domaradzki.
“A lot of farms lose crops from small birds eating them and static scarecrows don’t work so well because birds get used to them in a matter of hours,” said Sim. “The idea is that if you have something flying that looks like a predator, it triggers off the natural instincts of these birds and scares them off.”
Exploring a topic that was brand new to them, one group created a robotic arm that mimics the user’s movement using electromyography, a procedure that measures the electrical signals from nerve cells that make muscles contract. By building the circuitry out of low-cost electronics, they created a cost-efficient system that has applications in technology like exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs. After getting encouraging feedback at the showcase, they plan to continue developing their system throughout the year.
“The AME Senior Project Showcase is really meant to give the students an opportunity to show off their work and get that experience of having to capture the audience’s interest,” McArthur said. “It’s your senior year, and you’ve been spending four years at USC. What can you do? What is possible now?”
For more on the first annual AME Senior Project showcase, check out the video below!