The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Six Brilliant and Useful Designs Win Prizes at MIE Capstone Design Competition

A demonstration of MIE Senior Capstone project "SolaBlock"

Six innovative projects, created by seniors in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department for their Senior Design Project course, won various prizes during the Capstone Design Competition at the end of the spring semester. The two-semester course is considered the “culminating experience” of the MIE education. During the event, four years of hard work, study, and sweat equity converged into a perfect storm of timing, knowledge, execution, and peak performance.

This capstone course acts as a proof of concept for the whole MIE curriculum. The course demands that teams of students use the knowledge and skills they have developed during their undergraduate education to design a utilitarian product, build a prototype, summarize the project with a poster, and finally make a verbal presentation to judges.

“What resonates most with me is how appreciative the students are to see their past and current faculty attend and judge their projects,” said Senior Lecturer Bernd F. Schliemann, one of the three course instructors. “The students tell me this, and I think it speaks to the amazing faculty we have.” The other course instructors were MIE Professors Krish Thiagarajan Sharman and Yanfei Xu.

The SolaBlock project was chosen as the Best Industry Sponsored Team, featuring Miranda Eiben, Bob Fontaine, Mani Shekar Kadiyala, Benjamin Perrone, and Ahmad Sayah.

The primary goal of this project, sponsored by Solablock (a start-up company whose solar wall systems combine built-in solar technology with standard masonry), was to build a solar simulator which closely matches the spectral output of the sun from 400 nm to 1,100 nm. The simulator must maintain a consistent position of the solar panels relative to the light source from test to test and also produce consistent and accurate readings when measuring the output of panels. As the team members said, “Cost was minimized wherever possible, as this simulator is meant to be bought and maintained by a small start-up company.”

The Best Industrial Engineering Team was the Iron Mountain group, composed of Nathan Adeyemi, Ryan McKinney, Thomas Rogers, and Edwin Soto.

This project enables Iron Mountain Incorporated (a global business dedicated to storing, protecting, and managing information and assets) to optimize customer contracts at a speed at least 60 times faster than previous attempts. “Our focus was to create a new sales tool which would be used to quickly identify current customer contracts that were in need of attention and prioritizing them through a filtering system to improve their bin utilizations and associated cost,” the team said. “We understand that [Iron Mountain is] very interested in continuing this application’s developmental processes to further integrate it as a top-down management approach.”

Judges chose Omnidirectional Wheel (Bishakha Bhattarai, Michael Holman, Robert Long, Martin Mija, and Jade Saint Paul) as the Best Biomedical Team.

As the team members said, “The goal of this project is to design an omnidirectional wheel that transforms the standard wheelchair into a ‘shuffle chair’ that can move in multiple directions and travel over varied terrain. The team’s design gives wheelchair riders more independence and mobility by employing bearing rollers that have a minimal amount of friction.” Current wheelchair wheels impede the user’s foot clearance and collide with the user’s feet, causing functionality issues. The Omnidirectional Wheel successfully maintains the user’s foot clearance even when the chair travels and rotates 360 degrees.

The Best Entrepreneurial Team was Flat Roof Snow Thrower, created by Vincent Amatucci, David Boucher, Cameron Fisher, Chad Martin, and Luke Ryan.

The purpose of this senior design project is to modify an existing snow-blower model so that it removes snow from flat rooftops without causing damage to the roofing material or other rooftop components. “To start off, the project sponsor provided a baseline snow blower along with a series of custom and modified components, designed with the intention of allowing the snow blower to ride over a compressed layer of snow,” as the students said. “This layer of snow would create separation between the roof and the snow blower, providing the required protection for the roofing material. An initial prototype was created at the end of the fall semester and tested following snowfall events early in the spring semester.”

Greenhouse Heating (Amelia Bruno, Olivia Gilligan Corsetti, Jacob Davis, Michael Greenstein, and Eric Kupcinskas) won the prize for Best Student Concept Team.

The goal of this project is to provide GardenShare (a locally led, nonprofit organization seeking to end local hunger and strengthen food security in northern New York State) and future students with a comprehensible outline and prototype of a heat exchanger for a greenhouse. “We have developed a functional prototype with the hope that GardenShare will be able to implement a fully renewable heat exchanger in the future,” the five creators said. “The heat exchanger will be used to provide a supplemental heating source to a greenhouse by utilizing a pre-existing hot compost pile. It is our goal to extend the greenhouse operation from March to November, while cutting down on maintenance cost and time.”

The Most Popular Team, as selected by audience vote, was the Ski Boot Redesign group of Derek Gaines, Meghan Glade, Jeremy Hall, Serena Russell, and Jonathan Zuber.

“The goal of this project is to develop an alternative to currently available ski boots that makes skiing cheaper and more comfortable without compromising user safety or experience,” said the team members. “The final design is an adaptive binding which interfaces between widely available snowboard boots and modern ski bindings, affording the user the comfort of a snowboard boot with the functionality of a ski boot.” This design consists of a tolerance driven geometrical ABS base to directly interface with the ski binding, an aluminum footplate, aluminum ankle supports, and an ABS back support. (July 2019)