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Two Outstanding MIE Projects Share First Place

On May 1, two projects that created a more powerful clutch for John Deere harvesters and an improved method for removing toxic lead paint shared first place after judges presided over the end-of-semester poster presentation for the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department’s crowning course, MIE 415: Senior Design Project. The winning projects, entitled the “Innovative Clutch Design” and the “Autonomous Lead Paint Entrapment and Filtration System,” were chosen after 14 student teams of seniors demonstrated the prototypes of their useful, inventive, and brilliant designs for all to see. The event was the peak experience during the MIE course for seniors, as taught by MIE Professor Sundar Krishnamurty.

The course is considered “the culminating experience” of the education in the MIE department and demands that 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.

“Our capstone design poster presentation was a phenomenal success last night,” said Professor Krishnamurty the next day. “The students put on a fabulous show, and there were many faculty, students, and others in attendance. I had invited three engineers from Altra Industrial Motion who closely worked with our two projects. They got to see a glimpse of what our students can do, and they came away quite impressed.”

One first-place project designed a new clutch that allows higher reaping capacity in John Deere combine harvesting tractors. The “Innovative Clutch Design,” created by the team of Andrew Erwin, Keith MacWilliam, Frank May, and Rishi Singh, was sponsored by Altra Industrial Motion, a leading multinational designer, producer, and marketer of mechanical power transmission products.

“Since John Deere has increased the demand of their combine harvesters for faster harvesting, a resulting need for a clutch with a higher dynamic torque capacity has emerged,” as the project description reads. “Our group is working alongside Altra Industrial Motion, the company that produces the current clutches, to design a clutch that can meet John Deere’s higher torque capacity demand while maintaining other properties of the original clutch, such as the mounting pattern and package size.” 

The concept being employed by the “Innovative Clutch Design” team combines a disk clutch with a centrifugal clutch. When powered, the disk clutch will engage and, through the use of a latch mechanism, the centrifugal clutch will engage at a desired RPM.

The other first-place co-winner, the “Autonomous Lead Paint Entrapment and Filtration System,” will increase the efficiency and safety of exterior lead paint removal by using an automatic water pump, impermeable plastic sheeting, and filtration design. This will have the effect of cutting the time, labor, and monetary cost of lead removal. The team is made up of Brian Griffin, Carlo Domaoan, Richard Lau, and Todd Robbins.

Other fascinating-sounding inventions at the demonstration included an ergonomically advanced backpack named “The Hipster,” a continuous passive motion machine for hand rehabilitation, portable and customizable wall shelves, a wheelchair attachment to give its user extended reach, a groundbreaking design for strength-training footwear, and seven more equally ingenious innovations. (May 2012)