Expo Showcases Senior Design Innovation
Showcasing their ingenuity and a broad array of research interests, Columbia Engineering’s Class of 2016 made the third annual Senior Design Expo the most colorful and wide-ranging yet. From CatheCARE, a catheter disinfectant device utilizing UV light to keep bacteria from the bloodstream, to a machine that mechanically reproduces hand movements for knitting, students demonstrated their innovative projects and prototypes to a packed house at Lerner Hall May 5.
“Senior design projects encompass the entire engineering design cycle, from making something work to making a good presentation,” said Shih-Fu Chang, senior executive vice dean and Richard Dicker Professor of Electrical Engineering, kicking off the event. “Today is a highlight and signature for the School and the University.”
Projects from the School’s various departments included a new general purpose programming language called Dice developed by computer scientist David Watkins and a deep analysis of overnight and intraday returns of exchange-transfer funds in emerging markets from Xiao Xu, an industrial engineering and operations research major. Several groups of civil engineering students gave detailed proposals for a variety of bridges to accommodate needs and budgets of communities across New York, while teams of earth and environmental engineering majors addressed issues including optimizing treatment of pharmaceutical waste and assessing the potential benefits of organic fertilizers.
Biomedical engineering seniors tackled a range of health issues. The prototypes they developed included the cerVIA system, which combines a speculum-fitted camera with a screening algorithm to better detect and diagnose telltale lesions that indicate cervical cancer, and HelioCure, a hybrid phototherapy device designed for treating neonatal jaundice in low-resource settings with a combination of filtered sunlight and LEDs. Resistaderm uses a flexible and impermeable bioplastic seal to prevent transmission of skin infections in contact sports, and SafeStep, a sensor-enhanced walker, alerts patients when their gait and posture suggest that they may soon fall.
Many electrical and mechanical engineering students developed solutions for consumer needs, from the Auto-Powered Water Meter wirelessly tracking water usage to ClearChat, an advanced new directional hearing aid, and the Braille Box, a cost-effective portable unit for teaching the tactile language. Others engineered music, such as an instrument that enables mind-controlled musical composition and performance, and devised robots, with capabilities including walking, hopping, putting golf balls, fetching tennis balls, playing pool, and wriggling forward with snake-like peristaltic movement. KeyHand, a glove equipped with a variety of sensors, promised to enhance dexterity in virtual environments.
“Senior projects give you the freedom to be creative and apply all you’ve learned towards ends that interest you,” said Adam Jaffe ’16SEAS, who used what he learned in applied physics and mathematics to design a water-impervious layered membrane based on graphene oxide. “You have the chance to pursue something you’re passionate about.”
—by Jesse Adams