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Engineering students demonstrate, market capstone projects

May 8, 2013 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

Students from the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences showcase their senior capstone final presentations during Monday's event at the Arthur S. DeMoss Grand Lobby.

Josh Peterson (front), the designer/document writer for the engineering project assisting the School of Aeronautics, shows the traffic flow pattern proposal at Lynchburg Regional Airport as team leader Jimmy Foit (back) looks on.

Practical engineering applications, including new web-based apps, for improving life at Liberty University were on display in the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center Grand Lobby on Monday.

The ideas, designed and developed by students in the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences as their senior capstone final presentations, were mostly experimental, though some could change the landscape of Liberty in the near future.

“Last year, (students) worked with actual businesses to solve problems,” said Taylor Rymer, an electrical engineering major. “This is the first year we were assigned to solve problems here on campus, so it’s kind of exciting to help out our fellow students.”

During the fall semester, student teams located clients — in most cases the heads of university departments — and invented devices, systems, and computer modules to suit their needs. Then, in the spring semester, they actually constructed and programmed them.

“The main objective of the senior engineering capstone project is to expose our students to the challenges of project management, design development, and design implementation,” said Dr. Carl Pettiford, chair of the Engineering Department. “The main constraints and requirements change slightly from year to year, but the basic format is that the team leaders are determined at the end of the junior year, teams are assigned at the beginning of the senior year, and students are given a set of objectives to meet over the course of two semesters to satisfy a client’s need.”

Their projects represented tremendous amounts of research and innovation, incorporating technological skills such as creating circuit boards and connecting Wi-Fi micro-controllers.

Rymer’s team, which included Eric Tanner and Derek Miller, developed a sensor system called “Smart Parking” that could enable the Liberty University Police Department to monitor parking violators on campus and allow students to download an app on their smartphones to locate open spaces.

Derek Miller (left) and Eric Tanner (center) demonstrate how an air sensor placed under parking spots on campus works to keep track of spaces occupied and available through their Smart Parking project.

Smart Parking won last month’s “Shark Tank” event, held by the Association of Marketing Professionals, and has received positive feedback from LUPD Chief Richard Hinkley.

David Donahoo, dean of the School of Engineering, said the presentations helped open the eyes of the viewers to their products’ potential uses.

“What we see here is a diverse set of real-world challenges where our student teams applied sound engineering disciplines to provide practical working prototypes,” he said. “I listened to people questioning our students, with visionary and probing questions. That is not something we see until a prototype is built and the real innovation begins.”

Other projects in the expo included a meteorological monitoring system, “AgentIce,” that could be installed at various sites around campus to alert Grounds Department workers, through a web app, of the need for salt to be applied on walkways, and “Liberty DNA,” short for “DeMoss Navigation Assistant,” a kiosk with a touchscreen interface to direct new students to their classrooms.

In addition, one team developed a traffic flow computer simulation, improved parking layout, and cost analysis for Liberty’s aircraft flown by School of Aeronautics students at Lynchburg Regional Airport. Another group designed and built a touchscreen badge reader designed to cut down paperwork for students in the Department of Nursing by tracking completed skills required before starting clinical training in area hospitals.

Timothy Vernon developed the badge reader project with Christopher McCormick.

“We’re planning on working on this after graduation and possibly commercializing it for other customers, but the nursing department here is our alpha run,” Vernon said. “We’ve learned a lot in the process of developing it. It’s been a very good learning experience.”

Pettiford said the senior capstone project is a demanding curriculum, but one with rewards for those who persevere.

“Engineering design is hard,” he said. “Meeting project and design constraints is difficult. Through this experience, our hope is that our students experience a trial by fire, and come out of it a better engineer.”

  • Liberty’s School of Engineering and Computational Sciences began in 2007 and offers degrees in computer science, computer science (intelligence specialization), web technology and design, electrical engineering, electrical engineering (intelligence specialization), industrial & systems engineering, and computer engineering. The electrical engineering and industrial & systems engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).