Interdisciplinary Capstone gives students a chance to work with real companies and deliver projects with the potential to make a real-world impact. But it also gives sponsoring companies the opportunity to work with eager, talented engineers. This year, the program is welcoming 14 brand-new sponsors hosting a total of 18 projects, and a few of them shared what made them decide to get involved.
Chris Bridgewater is the chief executive officer of Delta Development, a Tucson-based firm that develops heating and cooling systems for extreme environments. For example, they are working with combat veterans and tactical medics to create methods for transporting blood for emergency transfusions. Bridgewater first heard about the capstone program when he was a UA engineering student himself and has wanted to sponsor a project ever since.
“I feel these projects are extremely important for new engineers to get knowledge and experience about how engineering is done within a company,” he said.
His team will be designing a more efficient charging station for critical refrigeration systems, such as medical refrigerators. It involves aspects of electrical, mechanical, software and thermal design, providing a broad range of learning opportunities for students. He hopes at the end of the year, the students provide him with a fully designed and assembled charging station, while he provides the students with a wealth of experience and knowledge.
“Lastly, I hope to come across talented individuals who are interested in what we do and possibly come work with us full-time,” he said.
Daniel Williamson is the owner of Arbo Scientific, a company that provides mosquito-borne disease surveillance and testing. He’s teaming up with partner Steve Young, who works in the same research area, to sponsor a mosquito surveillance trap project. He jumped at the opportunity to participate in Interdisciplinary Capstone.
“It was something I was looking for that I didn’t know existed,” he said.
Because of their role in transmitting disease, mosquitos are some of the most dangerous animals on Earth. Surveillance traps to gather mosquito specimens are critical, because they allow epidemiologists to better understand what species and viruses are present in a given area. However, in Williamson and Young’s experience, many of these traps are cumbersome or inefficient. They’re tasking their capstone team with developing two more user friendly mosquito surveillance traps: a professional trap for use by public health researchers and another to be used by untrained citizen scientists interested in contributing to the effort. The project will involve identifying the best chemical lures to attract some of the most dangerous species of mosquitos.
“At the end of the project, we are hoping to walk away with trap prototypes and design documents that will allow us to get these traps into production and eventually in the hands of research organizations that can put them to use in the field,” Williamson said. “Not having any formal experience in the engineering process, it will be a great learning experience for us to see how the individual engineering disciplines work together as a team to design a product.”
PING Inc., a sporting equipment manufacturer based in Phoenix, has been working with the college for several years, conducting aerodynamic testing in some of the college’s wind tunnels. This year, they decided to work with a senior design team for the first time.
“We were impressed by the way the projects are set up, using students from a wide range of disciplines and having experienced, senior mentors available to coach the students,” said Paul Wood, vice president of engineering at the company. “We had a problem we were looking to solve that seemed a perfect fit for a group of students to tackle.”
The team will be creating a method to automate the loading and unloading of golf shafts – the long, skinny part of a golf club -- into a sand blaster to increase the speed and efficiency of production. They’ll develop an attachment for the end of a robotic arm to pick up the shafts, and they’ll write the code to make the robot perform a repetitive operation.
“This is a great opportunity for the team to develop key technical skills that are valuable in the marketplace, such as robotic programming, mechanical design and automation,” Wood said. “We also hope each participant will learn how to establish a project scope with key deliverables and develop a realistic timeline, all while managing a real budget.”
A warm welcome to this year’s other first-time sponsors:
Engineered Medical Group
Reid Park Zoo
Spartan Armor Systems