Science / Technology and Health

Projects Day Preview

May 24, 2021

Projects Day graphic

Now in its 34th year, Seattle U’s Projects Day will be unlike years past as the venerable day-long show-and-tell of senior capstone engineering projects will reflect a year-long design process done almost entirely virtually.

Projects Day on June 4 is the culmination of students’ work with the Project Center, which partners with businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide real-world assignments for student design teams. Teams represent Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Students apply their theoretical knowledge and problem-solving abilities to deliver solutions to problems defined by industry partners.

This year’s Projects Day features 41 projects sponsored by 35 industry partners, 14 of which are new.

Flexible industry sponsors, adaptable students and creative ways to work around the need for prototyping designs and site visits is making it successful despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“One of the things I was concerned about and the faculty were concerned about is that some students, such as those in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, would struggle with any sort of prototyping they had to do,” says Rachael Brown, corporate relations manager for the Project Center. “Last year, students had the benefit of almost two full quarters to be together and work on things in-person before we had to go to remote learning. This year, many sponsors scoped projects that didn’t require prototypes. They were really creative in finding ways to provide projects that didn’t require students to be in a machine shop.”

For the projects that require physical work, parts and equipment were ordered for each student so they could work independently or, in some instances, one would work on part of the prototype and then mail it to the next person on the team.

“As the pandemic evolved, we were able to get approval for site visits beginning in winter quarter for the students whose projects needed it,” says Brown. “That was the cherry on top of a hard situation.”

Among the new sponsors that required site visits is the Black Farmers Collective, a large community garden that serves residents of Yesler Terrace near campus. On Projects Day, electrical engineering students will present their plans for a solar station to power greenhouse fans and other electricity needs at the site.

Here’s a look at two other notable projects:

Student teams advised by Associate Professor Al Moser, PhD, found creative ways to work around the need to work virtually on a couple of challenging projects that required prototypes. One is an earbud that melds together features of Bluetooth earbuds and modern hearing aids, which can allow the user to hear phone calls from a cell phone without holding the phone to the ear while also allowing the user to hear ambient sounds. It has a simple control pad on a lanyard around the user’s neck.

Boeing, a longtime project sponsor, asked students to develop a GPS system that works inside large steel and concrete structures. Standard systems do not work reliably in such structures like a manufacturing plant where much of Boeing’s work is done.

“Both teams have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with their sponsors to keep them apprised of progress and get feedback,” says Moser. “These go smoothly on Zoom. I’m not even sure if the sponsors are aware that some students are checking if from Oregon or Milwaukee or northeastern Washington.”

Register here to watch all or part of Projects Day student presentations.