The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Four Inventive Projects Win Kudos in MIE Senior Design Competition

Instrumented Beehive Senior Design Competition team, winners of the popular vote

Instrumented Beehive team

EZ Pack Paintbrush Senior Design Competition team, winners of the best semester project award

EZ Pack Paintbrush team

Four enterprising teams of senior engineering majors have been chosen as winners during the end-of-semester Senior Design Competition for MIE 415, the capstone course for the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. The evaluation process was carried out both by popular vote of the audience and a panel of expert judges. Accordingly, the team calling itself Instrumented Beehive won the Popular Vote. The Best Semester Project went to EZ Pack Paintbrush, and Kinex Cappers was picked as the Best Year-long Project, with Unified Health coming in an “extremely close” second. 

The competition was the peak first-semester experience for MIE 415, a two-semester course taught by MIE Professor Frank Sup and Senior Lecturer Bernd F. Schliemann.

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.

The team winning the Popular Vote, Instrumented Beehive, consisted of Virginia Ng, Benjamin Palazzi, Phuoc Truong, Amy Morin, Max Aukshunas, and Manali Palwankar. The main goal of the project was to create and implement a sustainable temperature sensor network in a real, working, 10-frame beehive that will provide crucial data readings to help beekeepers monitor and sustain their hives. The Instrumented Beehive design can assist and replace the manual inspection from beekeepers and provide data results during the winter offseason.

“The foundation of this design was derived from feedback from commercial beekeepers so the design can be well-integrated into a hive and non-intrusive to the bees,” said the team members.

When the Instrumented Beehive is completed, data will be collected every 15 minutes, stored locally, and uploaded daily to a server through wifi, thus providing a user-friendly website for data analysis. Motion sensors will also be placed externally to provide security and send real-time alerts for exterior security threats, such as predators, as well as abnormal internal beehive behavior.

Patrick Caviston, Jacob Grant, Jonathan Lombardi , Alex Parnell, and Changling Zhang made up the EZ Pack Paintbrush team, which won Best Semester Project. The goal of this project was not only to make the traditional brush painting process easier, but also safer for painters of all skillsets.

As the team explained, “Currently, in order to paint using a paintbrush the painter must carry around a can of paint and repeatedly dip the brush into the paint. It was hypothesized that this process could be made easier and safer by making the painting process limited to one hand.”

The EZ Pack Paintbrush features a paint-carrying container, which is stored in a backpack in order to eliminate the need to carry around a paint can in one hand. “The container, which is connected to the battery-powered air compressor in order to correctly pressurize the container, transfers paint to the paintbrush through a tube that connects to a one-way pump, delivering paint to the EZ Pack Paintbrush’s redesigned brush handle,” as the team members explained. “With this system, paint can be carried on the back and pumped through the bristles with one hand, redefining the way traditional brush painting is performed.”

Kinex Cappers, which won the Best Year-long Project, was made up of Nick Frassenei, Brian Cole, Joseph Murphy, Joshua Wang, and Evan Rogers. The goal of this project was to design a fully electric bottle-capping machine for Kinex Cappers. Currently, Kinex Cappers produces a variety of semi-automatic capping machines used for medium-scale capping operations, in which a single operator uses the capper to cap individual screw-on bottles more rapidly and accurately than if done by hand. Kinex already has an automatic capper that uses an electric motor to tighten caps, but the downward actuation motion is manually operated, leading to strain on the operator.

With this in mind, the initial goal accomplished by this project was to create an electronic means of actuating the capping motor downwards. “In order to meet these requirements,” said the team, “we have replaced the manual actuation system with a set of levers which utilizes adjustable weights to provide the necessary downward force. A lifting motor and pulley have been used to provide the lifting motion. A power supply and electrical control system has been designed and implemented to control the motors.”

Finishing a close second to Kinex Cappers was the project that developed an Adaptive Rowing Device for the Unified Health and Performance Center. The team was made up of Colin Stievater, Connor Eckstrom, Monika Sudol, Ron Mallach, and Kathryn Angevine. As part of a pilot program, this team consisted of both industrial and mechanical engineering majors. The team’s adaptive rowing device will attach to the standard Concept2 rowing machine seat via existing hardware within the seat and thereby enhance proper rowing posture, safe exercising, and quality physical performance.

As team members explained, “In doing so, the focal point of our modular device will be installed easily and coexist with the machine as if it was always meant to be there. From there, the device will serve to provide the lumbar support necessary to train effectively on the rowing machine, encourage proper posture and form for the athlete while improving performance, and allow for rowing to be an independent mode of exercise for any athlete regardless of [his or her] conditioning.” (January 2018)