Sounds of zooming robots, rotating motors and more will fill the air Dec. 1 in the CFE Arena, as more than 300 University of Central Florida engineering and computer science students will showcase their inventions brought to life as part of a final project.
Nearly 70 projects that range from solutions to real-world problems to entertainment will be on display from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. These projects are part of Senior Design, a capstone course for engineering and computer science disciplines at UCF. Students take Senior Design I to brainstorm and design a project before bringing it to life in Senior Design II the following semester. Students use coursework, plus additional UCF resources such as Maker Space labs and Senior Design Boot Camps to complete their projects that are then presented to a panel of faculty, staff and engineering professionals.
“Senior Design is a culminating experience that gives our students the opportunity to integrate what they have learned in all of their separate courses, as they work in teams on challenging, real-world problems. Students demonstrate their ability to tackle big problems, which can give them confidence,” said Charles Reilly, associate dean for Academic Affairs at UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The showcase also gives students an opportunity to demonstrate that they are job-ready to employers. UCF is the nation’s No. 1 workforce supplier to the aerospace and defense industry, and is among the nation’s top producers of engineers and computer scientists.
Here are just a few of the projects that will be on display:
Diabetic Breath Tester
UCF electrical engineering senior Christine Sleppy has grown up watching her two brothers constantly prick their fingers to test their blood sugar levels. An older and younger brother both battle type 1 diabetes.
“I thought, ‘If we can test alcohol on our breath, why can’t we test our blood sugar, too?’” she said.
That was the inspiration behind her senior design project – a diabetic breath tester – that can signal to users if their blood-sugar levels are in a healthy or an unhealthy range simply by blowing into a container.
The diabetic test made by Sleppy and three other teammates uses volatile organic compound sensors to test the amount of chemicals on someone’s breath. If high levels of acetone and ketones are found, research suggests that it indicates high blood sugar. Users blow into a hand-held container to test their levels, and the results then are transmitted via Bluetooth to an Android mobile application for the user to read.
“Our idea is to limit the amount of finger prickings so it becomes less invasive,” said Sleppy, who added that the breath-test technology right now cannot replace blood-glucose meters that have been the primary testing method for diabetics since the 1980s. That’s because more advanced sensors with the capability of providing specific readings still need to be developed before diabetics can rely on breath testers. Blood-glucose meters now require users to draw small drops of blood daily onto test strips that measure sugar levels.
This type of breath-test technology for diabetics has never hit the market for consumers, although there is extensive research happening across the country. A researcher from Western New England University also has created a similar product. It cost Sleppy and her teammates about $400 to create. Her teammates are electrical engineering seniors Jonathan Brown, Noah Spenser and Edert Geffrard.
When teammates Stephen Barth, Bryen Buie, Carlos Garzon and Trenton Williams brainstormed ideas for their Senior Design project, they had one main criteria: Create something that would spark a fun and exciting reaction from people.
That was the basis for Kitty Bot, a robotic, indoor cat toy the students designed for about $120.
“We wanted to show engineering can be fun and creative,” said Garzon, who has been described as a “creative soul” by his teammates.
Kitty Bot is a spherical toy made from a hamster ball that has a circuit board inside programmed to automatically move and turn the toy via three motors. The toy also is decked out with feathers, bells, fuzz and fur to entice and entertain a pet cat. The circuit board, motors and other hardware are tightly secured so a cat can knock the toy around without anything coming loose.
The twist? None of the Kitty Bot teammates have pet cats. However, they are Star Wars fans and turned to BB-8 – a Star Wars droid character that also moves via an automated sphere – for inspiration.
“We took that design [of BB-8] and applied it to a cat. Current toys on the market are just little stuffed mice and things like that, nothing robotic,” said Buie. “We thought this would be a fun project.”
Automatic Aerobic Composting Machine
A team of students has combined technical skills with a love of the environment to create an automatic, solar-powered composting machine, scalable for home or commercial use.
Compost is a nutrient-rich, sustainable substitute for fertilizer. Using yard trimmings and food waste such as coffee grounds, vegetables and fruit, compost can be spread over lawns to deter pests and plant diseases. The process to create compost, though, takes two-four weeks and often lots of manual labor.
To make the process easier for users, students Matt Aberman, Shayna Brock, Cody Baker and Thomas Phan created a composting machine that does most of the work. For about $500, the team built an acrylic machine equipped with sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity levels of the waste being broken down into compost. If the temperature or humidity is not at an ideal state, the machine automatically turns itself to mix up the materials and allow in more oxygen that’s needed to break down the waste. Similarly, if the humidity levels are off, a water mister or fan will automatically turn on to add or reduce moisture. The machine runs on a solar-powered battery, and transmits real-time information to a mobile application complete with a start button, an estimated date of when the compost will be ready and a reading of the compost’s current temperature and humidity levels.
“There’s nothing on the market that is fully automatic for home use,” said Aberman, who also is part of the Foundations for Engineering Education in Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) program at UCF that’s funded by the federal Department of Energy. “The end goal is to develop a system that is scalable for different applications.”