Feats of innovation

Tech showcases student designs

HOUGHTON – Over two decades, the Michigan Tech Design Expo has showcased students’ research and design to affect real world challenges. The undergraduate student expo is the opportunity for project teams to showcase their innovations in a variety of fields.

Senior capstone projects, as well as multidisciplinary teams that work with sponsors outside the university through the Enterprise program were the primary features of the event held Tuesday at the Memorial Union Building Ballroom and the Van Pelt Opie Library.

The expo this year also featured first-year student projects as well as an Enterprise team from Dollar Bay High School’s Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics.

Projects vary from miniscule medical instruments to robots intended for lunar missions with the ingenuity and innovation of Tech students as the driving force.

Blue Marble Security, an Enterprise team with sponsors such as General Motors and the U.S. Navy had a variety of projects on display, though explicit details had to be withheld in some instances.

Breanna Gorman, president of the Enterprise team and fourth-year electrical engineering major showcased a portable battery pack intended for military backpacks, the alteration situated the battery pack in the 3D-printed frame of the backpack, allowing for even displacement of weight.

As president of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise, Gorman was happy with the development of projects through the year.

The Enterprise program allows for multiple disciplines to work together on projects, which is similar to what students will encounter in the workforce, Gorman said.

While some Enterprise teams were collaborating with major firms in industry, Open Source Hardware Enterprise offers all of their data free of charge for all to use. The team allows for use, distribution and redevelopment of their projects to benefit others with similar interests and to further develop their systems through collaboration of other open source innovators. Their projects ranged from a pool system that would regulate chemical balances to a water immersion circulator used to cook food evenly and a solar-powered sonic bird attractor/repellent.

Cade Meyer, a fourth-year mechanical engineer student was part of the Velovations Enterprise team. They focus on bicycle design projects.

Meyer was working on a project in collaboration with a Tech alum, who had patented a new kind of tire hub. Over the course of two years, the Velovation team had developed models to showcase the patent, its durability and efficacy.

Meyer who accepted a position with Calumet Electronics on the completion of his degree next week noted his enthusiasm for the project and team though it was better suited to his passion for biking more than the profession he’s pursuing.

Projects ranged drastically in progress and development. Some projects in their earliest stages were still working out the kinks or experimenting with variables.

A team from the Consumer Product Manufacturing Enterprise focused on creating methane as a fuel source from food waste in the cafeteria. While the team had succeeded in producing the energy rich gas, they were looking forward to collaborating with a Michigan State University program to find solutions to problems and continue improving on their design.

While the Supermilage Systems Enterprise constructed a car over the course of the year and competed in the Shell Eco Marathon last week. Focusing on fuel efficiency, their designs had to be in agreement with the rules imposed by the Shell Eco Marathon competition. Overall team members were happy with the implementation of their design after having graduated almost half of their team last year. They took seventh place in their division with over 600 miles per gallon.

Throughout the expo, Enterprise Teams and Senior Design teams showcased the efforts of highly engaged and dedicated students intent on bringing their abilities to the workforce.

However, a young group of Dollar Bay high school students were not out of their depth alongside them.

The SOAR group has partnered with the National Park Service on Isle Royale to use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to address water-related research challenges. The students showcased the skills they’d developed in the robotics elective including electrical engineering, 3D printing, coding and soldering.

Senior Jasper Lee said he plans on pursuing electrical engineering, so the class was an obvious choice for him.

Junior Adelyn Swain has focused on 3D printing and helped develop a more efficient bracket for the group’s ROV.

The representatives of the SOAR program were in agreement that it was a valuable opportunity to pursue their interests and develop a diverse array of skills.

With over a thousand student participants, the expo showcased the spirit of innovation and collaboration around Tech’s campus. Every effort was focused on formulating solutions. For graduating seniors, first-time Enterprise students and first-year design projects, the prospects seem endless for these students. The only question looming: What will they think of next?


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