Experience counts for engineering seniors and their clients

Engineering seniors have spent two semesters tackling design challenges from actual corporations with real design needs.

The results of their design projects will be featured at Senior Design Day 2008, an annual event at the School of Engineering, set for Tuesday, April 22, from 3-5 p.m. in Featheringill Hall.

Sponsors this year include Nissan, Square D, Bonitron, Adventure Science Center, Campus for Human Development, Qualifacts, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (Huntsville, Ala.), National Instruments, and others.

For example, the goal this year of the instrumentation team is to design and implement a data capture and analysis racing package for the VU Motorsports’ Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) racecar.

The five-student team is using National Instruments’ CompactRIO with LabVIEW programming to capture and analyze signals from over a dozen different sensors mounted on the car. The small formula-style racer is designed and fabricated by Vanderbilt’s student SAE members and it’s tested in an annual Formula SAE competition.

More than 50 projects by interdisciplinary teams in biomedical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, engineering management and mechanical engineering will be displayed throughout first floor of Featheringill Hall.

Students will install their presentations from 1-3 p.m.  Several juries will review the projects during the final two hours.

The work done in SDD is the intellectual property of the participating companies, which means legal negotiations are unnecessary. This allows collaboration with participating companies and students gain real-world experience.

Teams meet with their clients to define the challenge, create a strategy, build a timeline, assign responsibilities, set deadlines and manage customer relations.

Students usually get to work on a project they prefer. “Occasionally, some get drafted,” says Joel Barnett, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “If they end up working on something they don’t like at first or are unfamiliar with, well, we say, ‘Welcome to the real world of work.’

“These projects often turn out to be some of the best, since the team is working in areas that are new to them,” he said.