The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Three Dazzling Inventions Win MIE Poster Contest

Treadmill Team

Throttle Control Team

On December 4, the MIE 415 Senior Capstone Design course, taught by Professor Frank Sup of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, held its fall-semester poster contest, and the three winning teams produced a trio of brilliant and practical inventions aimed at solving major engineering problems. During the semester their engineering ideas went from the concept stage to the actual fabrication of three ingenious devices: a treadmill to improve the gait of patients recovering from neurological damage, such as that suffered by stroke victims; an optimized throttle control disc for large industrial engines; and an anti-lock brake system for bicycles.

This semester’s project sponsors of MIE teams included Franklin Products, Governors America Corporation, Bete Fog, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command.

One of the two teams tied for first place in the competition built a passive split-belt treadmill, a project sponsored by a $125,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support assistive technology for people challenged by physical disabilities. The winning team of Erin Carey, Jeff Florek, Nicholas Lake, Eric Murray, and Subhash Gandhi Vallala was assisted by part of an NSF grant to enable “Integrative Capstone Design Experiences for Engineering and Nursing Students,” awarded to MIE Professors Sup and Sundar Krishnamurty and Professor Cynthia Jacelon of the UMass College of Nursing.

The treadmill team collaborated with Professor Julia Choi of the Kinesiology Department, building upon her research on human gait, which suggests that step length can be relearned, altered, and normalized after training on a split-belt treadmill with differential speeds between belts. The special treadmill is aimed at correcting abnormal gait in stroke patients and other victims of neurological damage. The team therefore designed and fabricated an easily transportable and inexpensive passive split-belt treadmill with independently adjustable resistances in each belt in order to dial into a patient’s specific gait deficit.

The other first-place finisher was the team of Paul Banks, Justin Bren, Michael Caporello, Nicholas Garant, and Stephen Volk, which designed and fabricated a new and improved kind of throttle control disc. The Governors America Corporation, a leading provider of innovative engine control products for large industrial engines, sponsored this team in order to spur improvements in its throttle control discs. The company’s current throttle assemblies require a large actuator to apply the required closing force for throttle control discs.

The corporation was hoping that a control disc redesign would make use of aerodynamic forces to decrease the required closing force, thereby enabling a smaller actuator and overall throttle control assembly and allowing for use in smaller applications. The objective of the project was to investigate, redesign, and optimize the shape of a throttle control disc to produce an aerodynamic torque in the closing direction, forcing the throttle disc to close when air-flow is passes over it.

The second-place team was composed of Sean Stine, Maxwell Perham, Edward Roy, and Samuel Yuan, a unit which produced an anti-lock brake system for bicycles. The function of anti-lock brakes in bicycles is to increase their safety by improving braking performance and increasing control. Typical rear brakes on a bicycle can lock up the wheel and cause the rider to lose control. The team thus set out to design, analyze, and prototype a functional anti-locking brake system that would fluctuate the braking force rapidly on the rear wheel when wheel lock-up is detected.

This spring MIE Professor Sundar Krishnamurty will be teaching the course and assisting our talented MIE students to bring their innovations from concepts into reality. (December 2014)