Seniors Innovate and Engineer for Humanity

The fourth annual Senior Design Expo showcased innovations from the Class of 2017 that embody the vision of Columbia Engineering for Humanity.

Seniors Zanwar Faraj and Mert Selamet Seniors Zanwar Faraj and Mert Selamet tinker with the animatronic face they developed with Maiuna Hossain, Carlos Morales, and Patricio Torres. (Photo credit: Timothy Lee Photographers)
students, faculty, colleagues, friends, and guests including students from local high schools
Students, faculty, colleagues, friends, and guests including students from local high schools packed the Roone Arledge Auditorium at Lerner Hall in May to explore seniors’ design projects (Photo credit: Timothy Lee Photographers)

From a beach-cleaning robot to affordable diagnostic tools and better-fitting prosthetics, the fourth annual Senior Design Expo showcased innovations from the Class of 2017 that embody the vision of Columbia Engineering for Humanity. Hundreds of students, faculty, colleagues, and friends gathered at Lerner Hall in early May for a science fair as expansive as SEAS itself, ranging from proposals for better buildings and infrastructure to patent-pending consumer products to cutting-edge research cryptocurrency.

Several teams of civil engineers designed green buildings to promote sustainability and reimagined transportation infrastructure to better connect people and places. The proposed 10-story Nani Hotel (Courtney Beckwith, Jenna Fontaine, Gayoung Kim, Lizbeth Peña, Anthony Pensiero, and Veronica Timpane) is a blueprint for a resort building on Hawaii’s island of Oahu encompassing structural, geotechnical, environmental, and construction management perspectives and calculated to be both financially and environmentally sustainable.

Closer to campus, a proposal for an AirTrain JFK–La Guardia extension (Rashed Al Qudah, Kevin Chiu, Colton Doering, Stephen Ho, Anel Redzematovic, and Hua Zheng) offers a practical plan for helping Manhattanites reach the city’s airports more conveniently. Also looking to improve quality of life in New York were earth and environmental engineers Chris Ahn, Fred Enea, Anna Libey, Xiaocong Susan Liu, Colette McCullagh, and Maria Torres, who worked with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on ideas for cooling the city’s scorching subway platforms during the summer.

Tiffany Tuedor and a fellow student demonstrate Auri
Tiffany Tuedor and a fellow student demonstrate Auri, a device that uses automated image analysis of the eardrum to help physicians diagnose ear infections. (Photo credit: Timothy Lee Photographers)

Among the many teams tackling human health were biomedical engineers working on diagnosing and treating maladies quickly and at low cost. Amnitect (Olivya Caballero, Rosa Kim, Namji Park, and visiting junior Shaw Yang) is an insertable device that can help women tell if they have elevated levels of amniotic fluid during pregnancy, helping to detect premature ruptures of the amniotic membrane; and Lumenda (Lizzette Delgadillo, Bryan Louie, Priya Medberry, and Sid Perkins) is a point-of-care device for diagnosing neonatal bacterial meningitis in low-resource settings. Perkins traveled to Uganda in June to pass on the intellectual property to another organization, as his teammates are busy with research and/or medical school and he is working in Paris as a Fulbright Fellow.

Women’s health in Uganda inspired AdneXXa (Tess Cersonsky, Erika McManus, Nina Moiseiwitsch, and Lara Warner), a low-cost female condom that can be boiled for reuse, while Haiku Prosthetics (Amanda Jimenéz, Roberta Lock, Chiang Lu, Georgiana Yang, and William Yu) is waiting on a patent for the adaptable, universal prosthetic socket the team designed to help children growing up with artificial limbs. Smartphones enable LUNA (Shujian Deng, Kristopher Harris, Nicholas Primiano, Payal Rana, and Zane Zemborain), a laser ultrasound-guided biopsy needle aid that uses a smartphone app for better insertion, and Sirena (Josh Hughes, Rachit Mohan, Derek Netto, Alexandra Nuzhdin, and Zaheen Sarker), a trimodal assistive system that helps EMTs document treatments while keeping their hands free for patient care.

Working to connect generations were electrical engineers John Kotey, Chris Kunkel, and Julian Vigil, who combined a sensing device, machine learning, and an app to create TearsTalk, which analyzes babies’ cries and is expandable to interpret other sounds. The project made the semifinals of this year’s Columbia Venture Competition.

A subject poses for Toulouse, the painting robot
A subject poses for Toulouse, the painting robot, which paints using a brushstroke algorithm by taking a photo and rendering it as a set of artistic brushstrokes. (Photo credit: Timothy Lee Photographers)

“A baby’s cry contains tons of information, from cues about hunger or discomfort to larger health concerns,” Kotey said. “Our device accounts for ambient noise and is expandable so long as we have an audio signal.”

Aiming to promote financial security in a decentralized marketplace, industrial engineering and operations research seniors Dillon Biddiscombe, Aakanxit Khullar, Alec Silverstein, and Omer Yatkin created an implied interest rate model for valuing cryptocurrency products like Bitcoin that will help develop derivative products for hedging such instruments’ volatility.

Others celebrated creativity with artistic robots like the RoBach (Will Cao, Eli Epperson, Cynthia Kallif, Amritha Musipatla, Nick Scarfo, and Johanan Sowah), which combines Mozart-trained artificial intelligence with an analog synthesizer to compose and improvise music, and Toulouse (Amelia Dunn, Evan Hertafeld, Yadir Lakehal, and Aramael Pena-Alcantara), which paints portraits. Mobile robots ranged from the spherical Robot that Rolls (Grace Liu, Trevonna Meikle, Peter Luning Prak, and Yuchuan Zhang) to Honu, a turtle-like autonomous beachcleaning robot (Bradley Beeksma, Daniel Gonzalez, Jamie Hall, and Alyssa Nicole Posecion).

Mechanical engineers Jake Abitbol, Kevin Baquero, Lane Baze, and Benjamin Machtinger used every tool in the Columbia MakerSpace to produce the windproof ONEbrella, which uses a unique double structure to function while still allowing wind to pass through.

“We thought we were done after today,” said Abitbol. “But after all the questions and interest we’ve gotten, we might have to reconsider.”

By Jesse Adams