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Electrical and computer engineering students light up Expo 2019

ECE students receive Office of Technology Management award

Senior engineering students lined up early in the morning outside of the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum on Roosevelt Road, straightening suit jackets, ties, and skirts, clutching posters, computer monitors, and various pieces of equipment. They were ready to present their capstone projects at the 30th Annual UIC Engineering Senior Design Expo. The Expo is the culmination of a two-semester Senior Design Course, where students solve a real-world design problem.

UIC’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department had 34 projects entered into the April 26 event, and the topics ran the gamut from safety devices including tools to help track and locate the elderly and children, measure air quality, and detect potential hazards; to smart devices such as windows, irrigation systems for gardens, and lunch boxes; to golf swing trackers and do-it-yourself electric scooter kits.

The students spent two semesters working on the projects, and most said they learned valuable lessons during the design and implementation of the project.

The team behind Melody Maker, a tool to help aspiring guitarists learn chords and notes with a light-up guide for frets, shared their experience.

“There were road bumps. We hand-soldered every single piece on a prototype and it was a complete failure,” said Michael Neputy, laughing. “But we met every Saturday, and we solved it by the end. We learned how to get better.”

The judges, mostly UIC engineering alumni, focused on their particular area of expertise, judging in the various categories that contained the more than 200 student projects.

The students felt the judges’ feedback was very helpful. Some of the questions they received validated decisions they had made in the design and fabrication process, or inspired new ideas for future research. The team behind Safer City, which developed an iOS app to allow Chicago commuters to view the nature and location of violent crimes that have taken place in the past year on their suggested route of travel–and provide an alternative, potentially safer route–was thrilled that two judges had positive reviews of their work, and said that inspired them to continue work on the app.

Like Safer City, Smart Irrigation System, another team, has future plans for their project aimed at home gardeners, which uses soil and air temperature sensors to monitor the ground, automatically turning on and off as needed. The unit can also be self-directed to activate via an app connected to a smartphone.

“We had an offer today from a community garden in Pilsen that wants to try our technology,” said Kyle Hinrichs, one of the Smart Irrigation System team members.

Award Winners

 Ten of the department’s teams were honored with awards for their projects at the event.

The team of Shijin Duan, Yinbin Ma, Danni Shao, and Yunjuan Wang received the prestigious Office of Technology Management award for their project “Airprobe – Multimeter With Wireless Data Transmission.” The Airprobe uses Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect a mulitmeter to a cellphone, so electronic circuits can be tested easily and measurements recorded by the phone, for quick download. The team, part of Programs for International Partnership’s (PIP) 3+2 Engineering Programs, offers international students a non-degree nine-month undergraduate training program, followed by a master of science degree.

Ziqi Huang, Yuan Liu, Chenfei Wang, and Yuchen Xue won in the Computer Engineering category for “Poppy: A Smart Name Tag.” Poppy can be worn around the neck or stored in a coat pocket, and is designed for the elderly and children. The tag works with two-way communication; the user can press a button if they get lost, which will send a message with their exact location and location history, or a person can track the wearer. Also, a QR code will enable strangers to help a user get to safety. This team is also part of the PIP 3+2 program.

Two teams tied in the Consumer Product Development I category; “Breathe Strong Mask” and “Bike Buddy – a Vehicle Detection Device for Cyclists.”

The Breathe Strong Mask prototype was created by Mohammed Alaidroos, Mateusz Drag, Luis Ramirez, and Muhammad Raza. The 3D printed mask utilizes a fan and a battery, and aims to be extremely comfortable and provide enough air to be worn during exercise.

Savim Acharya, Pedro De La Torre, Jackie Du, and Singee Nguyen developed Bike Buddy to prevent accidents, and provide cyclists with warnings of approaching vehicles or other objects from behind using LIDAR and ultrasonic sensors. The unit also has a rear light that brightens as it gets darker and includes turn signals.

In the Electronics Engineering category Damien Gilbert, Andrei Marotta, Tyler Mckay, and Palak Tripathi took home the top prize for their “Planar Positioning System for 3D Scanning” project. The team is hoping to fill the niche for a 3D scanner that can scan objects larger than what current, lower-end affordable scanners do while avoiding the high-end $1,000-plus price point of more sophisticated scanners. Using planar positioning, LIDAR, and MATLAB, they hope to achieve increasingly accurate scans, and provide a low-cost platform for a DIY scanner.

Duy Do, Erick Gonzalez, Jason Joseph, and Daniel Kovacevich took home top honors in the Embedded Systems category for the “Health Monitoring Bracelet (H.M.B.).” The bracelet can monitor a child’s heart rate, oxygen, and temperature, and will send an SMS text message via Bluetooth to a guardian to warn them if these levels are abnormal.

The “Piezoelectric Bike” won the Energy Engineering prize. The project was submitted by Roben Mata, Josue Mateo, Calvin Park, and Matt Stevenson. The team embedded piezo sensors in a bike tire, to generate electricity from the force and revolution of the tire. By charging a 12-volt battery over time from riding, the user can power bike lights and other small electronics.

Sanjida Choudhury, Megan Dague, Zachary Hellriegel, and Cary Pope won the Robotics Engineering honors for “Flame Bot: A Portable Robotic Assistant for Firefighters.” Flame Bot is a robot that will enter a fire ahead of firefighting crews, measuring temperature, C02 levels, and providing visuals remotely.

Two ‘bots’ tied for first place in the Software Engineering II category, “Parkingbot” and “Slam-bot: Seeing and Mapping.”

Parkingbot is a program that visually scans parking lots using cameras trained on the lots, and in real time updates a website with available parking spot information. Users of the program can check for open spots, or look for alternate spots in a nearby lot. The team included Eric Bauer, Christian Janicki, David Samuels, and Ashley Spreitzer.

Shixiong Jiang, Yihua Pu, Haoran Yu, and Yufang Zhang, part of the PIP 3+2 Engineering Programs, created Slam-Bot, a simultaneous localization and mapping robot which can map complicated indoor environments. This tool can be useful for both indoor navigation and floor planning.