Science / Technology and Health

Projecting Excellence

Written by Mike Thee

May 20, 2014

3 engineering students working on a project together

Projects Day features a record-setting number of emerging real-life solutions.

A universal mount for a popular video game system. A de-burring machine to help blind workers assemble canteens for soldiers. A lane-changing collision avoidance system for trucks. These are just three of the nearly three dozen projects that will be featured at this year's Projects Day on June 6. Intrigued? You should be. 

Now in its 27th  year, Projects Day is the culminating celebration of real-world solutions that our students are integrally involved in bringing about. Teams of three to four senior and graduate students from the College of Science and Engineering and the Albers School of Business and Economics work with faculty advisers and representatives from the sponsoring business or organization on projects in civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer  engineering, computer science and software engineering, sustainability, international and new ventures. 

The Project Center facilitates these partnerships with companies throughout the Puget Sound.

This year's 34 projects is a record number, and up from last year's 24. Ernie Lou, corporate relationships manager, attributes some of the rise to a growing interest in STEM fields as well as the region in which we are situated. "The high-tech industry is booming here," he says, adding that there's no shortage of opportunities in fields such as computer science and software engineering. 

Yet the Project Center has much more going for it than that. SU's participating students not only gain real-world experience-they consistently get real-world results. Through the Project Center, "SU has created a strong tradition of excellence that continues to serve our students, our partners and the workforce needs of the state of Washington," says Dean Michael Quinn of the College of Science and Engineering. 

You want real-world results?

How about the universal mount for the Xbox One Kinect now being worked on by a group of SU mechanical engineering students with their adviser, Associate Professor Frank Shih? If all goes well, the product could be in stores for the next holiday season. 

That deburring machine? Another group of mechanical engineering students, this one advised by Associate Professor Greg Mason, is working to soften the sharp edges of stainless steel pieces that blind and deaf-blind employees use to build canteens for soldiers in the U.S. Army. The project will dramatically improve worker safety, and the new de-burring process will save the nonprofit employer, Lighthouse for the Blind, nearly $1,000 per eight-hour shift. 

Or how about those blind spots with which drivers of tractor trailers contend? There's a project for that, too. A group of electrical and computer engineering students advised by Lecturer Kevin Lybarger are working with the multinational truck manufacturer PACCAR, Inc. to come up with a less costly vehicle detection system with fewer false positives. 

Many of SU's projects earn national recognition. For instance, of the 30 awards the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has given since 2009, seven-or about a quarter-have gone to SU projects. 

For the students, perhaps the most satisfying outcome of their capstone projects is the prospect of a job offer. "It's clear that companies like what they see in Seattle University's (students), because many of our graduates take full-time positions with the companies that sponsored their senior projects," says Quinn.