Creativity takes center stage in FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing senior design showcase

By Guest Contributor David Drucker / FIU News


In it Faculty of Engineering and ComputingSenior Design Showcase, rising engineering stars used their creativity and technical skills to present solutions to societal challenges.

The exhibition, held on December 2, was the culmination of months of work. Faculty and companies provided project ideas, then students used their critical thinking skills under the guidance of faculty members to bring possible solutions to life. Most of the students developed their projects to the point of being able to present them to a company.

“I think it’s great that FIU is holding the showcase to give everyone a chance to show their passions and hard work. It’s a great way for the public to see that as well,” said David Trujillo, a senior environmental engineering student.

Here are four sample projects indicative of the creativity on display.

Is it necessary to redesign the skateboard? This is the challenge that mechanical engineering seniors Daniel Figueroa, Alessandro Gianforcaro, Yousef Alkandari, Carlos Hernandez Colucci and Herman Flores took on for the senior showcase.

The project started when a teacher showed students a video of a skateboarder complaining about problems with his board. In particular, the skateboarder complained that the board was always spinning from side to side due to the wear that the trucks caused to the board, where the wheels meet the board.

The students designed an additional clip for the trucks that would eliminate this turning problem. They also made a fiberglass board, which is stronger than most typical boards and won’t break in half when damaged, which is important for safety.

“If the trucks come loose, the movement would only be up and down, not side to side like most boards. And since someone would be on top of the board, they wouldn’t really feel the movement,” Gianforcaro said.

A vital element of many surgical procedures, anesthesia must be administered in specific concentrations to maintain patient sedation. Seniors Emily Flores, Noble Amadi, Danielle Levy, Thais Tivelli, and Daniela Ugalde designed a device that meets today’s demand for a low-cost, affordable sensor to ensure patient and staff safety. Bio-MEMS and Microsystems sponsored the project.

For the research, the students repurposed a commercial fuel cell, a power device used in many automobiles, in order to detect isoflurane, a type of anesthesia. The micro fuel cell was integrated into a portable device and would audibly alert when a patient is outside of safe sedation limits. The project won first prize in biomedical engineering and first place for best presentation. Flores won the Leadership Standard Award for being the top project leader at the exhibit.

“My team spent most of our four years online due to Covid. This project was our best chance to do practical engineering work, and I think what we accomplished says a lot,” Flores said.

Could a missile travel faster if the tip had a different shape? This was the focus of senior mechanical engineering students Esteban Guarnizo, Michael Harris, Riley Smith, and Edgar Viamontes on their project. The students investigated whether a missile with a star-shaped tip, or nose cone, would perform better than today’s latest-generation missiles.

In the process, the FIU senior team delved into research projects done in the 1960s and 1970s in the Soviet Union on the aerodynamic effect of missile fins. The team investigated research projects translated from Russian as they aimed to combine Soviet-era research with cutting-edge artistic designs.

They have run simulation tests on hundreds of designs and have been successful in a few key areas, but are still looking to see what testing the missile would look like at higher speeds. They tested the missile at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. They’d like to test it at Mach 5, five times the speed of sound.

“This project was more challenging than what I did in undergrad because it was a free-form open project. There was no guide, no obvious ways to go. It was difficult, but exciting, trying to work on something that tried to push the boundaries of standard aerodynamic design,” said Guarnizo.

Some chemicals used in manufacturing, packaging, and other industries that end up in everyday products, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), are highly resistant to degradation, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Many water treatment plants are still unable to remove these chemicals.

Research has indicated that PFASs can bioaccumulate in humans and wildlife and that there are probable links that PFASs contribute to reduced fertility, testicular and kidney cancer, and developmental effects in unborn children, he said. Trujillo, member of the project. He and his group worked on designing a water treatment process that could remove these substances from the water.

Using a treatment method called ion exchange, the team created a design that would use a specialized resin to remove the chemicals from the water. With the proposed design, the treatment process could reduce assumed concentrations of the chemical by 83 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS to a range of 10 ppt to non-detectable levels for the particular water parameters that were assumed. The group was made up of Trujillo, Ricardo Martínez, Yissell Marcos Navarro, Patricia Hernández, Kenny Rivera, Melanie Dorta, Verónica Alemán and Rashed Alenezi.

The Environmental Protection Agency is working on regulations on these chemicals.

“In the real world, few places do this. So it was pretty intimidating at first. But after receiving a lot of guidance from professors, plant operators and suppliers and reading industry literature, we were able to do it,” Trujillo said.

This story was first published by FIU News here and republished with permission.

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