Mechanical Engineering Teams Shine at 2019 Spring Capstone Expo
Two-hundred and thirty six teams from 11 different schools and programs and three colleges at Georgia Tech competed in the Spring 2019 Capstone Design Expo on Tuesday, April 23, at McCamish Pavilion.
Some projects came about because a sponsor needed a problem solved, while others will serve as the foundation for startup ventures. All of them tested the participants' ability to work together toward a shared goal and produce demonstrable results.
Topics ranged from medical devices to process optimization to construction projects. Biomedical engineering teams worked with medical device companies to come up with new ways to help patients and doctors alike. Electrical and computer engineers collaborated with sponsors to address challenges related to drones and robots — Maurauder Robotics tasked two teams with developing the programming for an autonomous underwater vehicle that will track and destroy sea urchins that are devouring fragile kelp forests. Known worldwide for their efficiency prowess, industrial and systems engineering students worked on projects for local Fortune 500 companies including The Home Depot, Delta, UPS, and The Coca-Cola Company, as well as MARTA, Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Atlanta Hawks.
Nuclear and radiological engineers, though few in number, took on food irradiation, designing next-generation, small-scale nuclear reactors for isolated communities, and developing a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion engine for deep space manned missions to Mars and beyond.
Coming back to Earth, other teams worked on local projects, with architecture students designing spaces for the Georgia Tech campus and Atlanta communities, public policy students examining affordable housing, and civil and environmental engineers tackling infrastructure needs such as a Georgia Department of Transportation bridge replacement in Macon, stormwater system redesign in Peachtree Corners, and the I-75 and I-285 interchange.
The best overall project award went to SmartSoil, a team of mechanical engineering students who developed an indoor, user-friendly composting device that uses worms to produce nutrient-rich compost. Known as vermicomposting, using worms to make compost usually takes a long time, but SmartSoil's trashcan-sized composter uses food waste to feed worms and produces usable compost in just two weeks. The automated device regularly sifts the compost down into a tray and sprays water to maintain moisture levels. Compared to its closest competitor, the SmartSoil composter produces 50 times as much high-quality fertilizer per year. "We didn't expect to win" said team member Yi Ting Sam. "This was just a passion project for us." But now that they've had their project poked, prodded, and examined by judges, they're interested in pursuing it further and entering it in one of Georgia Tech's startup programs. It won't be hard to do since four of the six team members are staying at Georgia Tech to pursue graduate degrees in mechanical engineering.