CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science Shows off Senior Design Projects

  • An engineering team member puts the finishing touches on a human-powered vehicle. Photo by Nestor Garcia.

  • A fully functioning canoe made out of cement. Photo by Nestor Garcia.

  • A safety skateboard. Photo by Nestor Garcia.

  • Team members set up display for the safety skateboard with a built-in break. Photo by Nestor Garcia.

Steel bridges, an unmanned aircraft, a cubesat to carry a JPL Payload experiment into space and code that tracks Twitter, analyzing current events and topics to predict trends, were just a handful of the cutting-edge projects at California State University, Northridge’s fifth annual Engineering and Computer Science Senior Design Project Showcase on April 18.

“Our fifth annual showcase is the largest to date with over 300 students and 23 projects and continues the tradition that we started in 2010. It is a testament to the CSUN SHINE vision articulated by President Harrison and reflects the excellence of our academic programs and our outstanding students,” said S.K. Ramesh, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The showcase featured the culminating design projects and oral presentations of graduating seniors in the college’s five departments—civil engineering and construction management, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, manufacturing systems engineering and management, and mechanical engineering. And it is evaluated entirely by more than 30 judges from the industry who serve on the panels.

What makes these projects so unique is that they are designed, created, tested, refined and implemented within a short amount of time. Take, for instance, one of the mechanical engineering teams known as SWEET, Solar and Wind Energy Engineering Team.

These bright green, seven-foot-plus, umbrella-topped towers utilize a solar panel array that will generate electrical power. Complete with a hub fitted with standard outlets, along with USB adaptors for devices like iPhones and Droids, the tree can be placed in various hubs on campus, such as bus stops and eating areas, to provide charging power for mobile and other electronic devices as necessary.

“What’s so incredible about our project is that we designed and built the concept all within this past semester,” said team member Tal Peled. “Right now we have just the one, but hopefully we’ll be able to build more that we can rent out to different clubs and organizations on campus so that when they have events, they’ll be able to have their own, movable, clean power source. Ideally, if we can get the permits we would also love to make a few of them permanent fixtures around campus, where there is not easy access to electrical outlets.”

However, these ready-to-use projects are not limited to CSUN’s campus. One team’s project is not even located in the States.

“We’re really excited about the possibilities,” said Daniel Aquino, a civil engineering student on the medical facility in Haiti team. Helping Hands and Beyond, a nonprofit humanitarian organization located in Haiti, asked CSUN’s civil engineering department if it could help design a medical facility.

The department accepted the challenge and commissioned former student Markos Perez-Bran, who has a background in architecture, to produce an architectural floor plan for the facility.

In turn, the senior civil engineering students worked on the structural design of the medical facility. This facility serves as a permanent medical care building in a town called Fonds Des Negres and utilizes building materials that are available in Haiti, namely reinforced concrete and concrete masonry units. The facility is comprised of a large waiting area, medical examination rooms, a dental care room, a psychotherapy evaluation room, a pharmacy and a laboratory area.

“Hopefully, the medical facility will be built within a year,” said Aquino. “And if that’s the case it’s really incredible to think that we would get to go visit the structure we helped create, not to mention the life-changing effect it will have on the locals in that area.”

“The projects are really impressive and getting more sophisticated every year,” said Ramesh. “It is a special day for all our students as it allows them to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities as they embark on their careers. It especially adds credibility when the entries are judged by industry experts who provide valuable feedback and suggestions to help our students.”

And the students couldn’t agree more. Jesse Campos and Chris Smith, mechanical engineering students on the Intelligent Ground Vehicle team known as Vader, created a fully functioning unmanned vehicle. The invention was awarded the grand prize in the showcase, and Smith noted, “working on these projects really help you to learn how to work in an engineering environment. You have your immediate team that you’re working night and day with, but then you have the larger department that you work with and keep apprised of all their projects and make sure that what you’re doing is in line with what they’re doing as a whole. It is much like what we’ll be experiencing in the work force.”

Ramesh added that the response from the guests who attend is usually, “we had no idea that you had projects of this complexity. The scope and breadth were outstanding.”

For more information about the showcase, visit the college’s website: http://www.csun.edu/engineering-computer-science/senior-design-project-showcase.