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Local companies implementing three UIC MIE senior design projects

Students Display Jack Design

MIE students put a tremendous amount of hard work into their Senior Design Expo projects with a goal to win first place. Win or lose, all of the students learn from their projects and take that knowledge to the working world or graduate school. For some students, the payoff is greater. Three of MIE’s projects, advised by Jon Komperda and Dr. Michael Brown,  are being put into action by two companies that sponsored the students.

“As a research university, we challenge our students so they are prepared for the next level of their career,” said MIE Department Head Farzad Mashayek. “In this instance, we are connecting students and companies for real-world work that can implemented. The partnerships benefit everyone involved in multiple ways.”

The student team of Jon Kopfer, Tyler Stillman, Kevin Huxhold and Esteban Gaucin were sponsored by Thule Inc., in Forest Park, Illinois, and advised by Komperda. Their project called Design of an Adjustable Support for Thermoform Sheet Stock is a redesign one of the company’s assembly lines.

“We had a problem that we were looking to get fresh eyes on,” said Carter Henricks, Manufacturing Engineer at Thule Inc. and a UIC alumnus. “I was contacted by my senior design advisor looking for project submissions right as we were discussing how to reduce our changeover times. We didn’t need a solution immediately, so it seemed like a great fit for a team of engineering students to work on.”

The Thule team had an excellent experience working with the MIE students and enjoyed the creative ideas they brought to the project.

“It was great to have the opportunity to have students work on the project and provide new ideas,” said Henricks. “They were able to put time into a project that we had sort of run out of ideas on. They provided great documentation and were able to do a lot of analysis that can sometimes be overlooked when developing new designs in a production environment.”

All of the design expo projects have a place in the real world. However, the partnership provided the students with real-world experience. They were given access to the equipment they’d be designing a solution for and the preliminary ideas Thule had. They also had professional guidance and advice.

“They drove the project themselves and worked hard to present solid deliverables at each step along the way,” said Henricks. “It was a great learning experience for both our company and the students.”

The MIE team encountered a lot of requirement changes throughout the project, as they would in the real world, and adapted to them quickly and efficiently. They presented a design solution that was different from anything Thule had seen in the past. Apart from a quality solution, the project was on budget and met all requirements asked of them.

“We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with UIC engineering students again. We’ve already started brainstorming projects for them to get started on,” said Henricks.

Labjacks Supports Two Student Projects

“They were very resourceful, professional, and very good at communicating the progress of the project, said Greg Litcher, President of, Inc., as he discussed the two teams of MIE students the company sponsored.

The team of Elizabet Iontcheva, Farbod Shirvanian, Michael Trachsel, and Roland Najbar worked on a project entitled Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on Various Scissor Jacks, while the team of Anzori Kuchaidze, Paul Bosnyak, Nabeel Qureshi, Grzegorz Tomczak worked on the project Linearly Actuated Scissor Jack with WiFi Control.

The idea to partner with MIE students on professional projects came from a customer suggestion who had experience working with the students. After Labjacks first sponsorship went well, the company decided to continue sponsoring senior design projects.

“This past spring was our fourth semester working with UIC students and faculty,” said Litcher. “As with our past experience, this semester’s group’s quality of work, ability to understand the project and goals, and deliver what they were tasked with was very professional, accurate, and useful as an end result. It will enable us to use the data, hardware, and software in future products the company will offer.”

While the students work hard to earn the approval of Litcher and his team, Labjacks also put a lot on the line to support the future engineers. The company purchased all of the components needed to accomplish the project, and took time out from their busy schedule to work through any problems that arose.

“We had several meetings at the company during the project that kept us up-to-date with the progress, addressed any concerns, and kept the project on track,” he said. “We evaluated the progress and made suggestions that helped the students focus on the goals of the project.”

All of the effort from Labjacks, the MIE faculty, and the students created a positive and rewarding partnership. Now, the designs, software and prints/cad files are in use and will be a final product by the end of the year.

“It was a pleasure to work with all the students and to see how well UIC teaches them for real-world knowledge and experience,” said Litcher. “They are well equipped to go out into the workforce and have a positive influence on their chosen profession. We look forward to working with UIC and the senior class this fall.”

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