Art and engineering come together in four student designed solar-powered sculptures, which were showcased with battling robots, sea turtle tracking drones and much more Friday, April 21 as more than 500 University of Central Florida engineering and computer science students displayed their inventions as their final senior projects.

More than 115 projects were on display 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They range from solutions to real-world problems for industry sponsors such as Lockheed Martin and Boston Whaler, to automobile and aerospace projects that will be entered into national engineering competitions, to electrical and computer science solutions that feature technology such as virtual reality and high-tech sensor capabilities that have the potential for commercial development.

See UCF’s event listing here, which includes an event program with all project descriptions.

The 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.

The goal of the showcase is to give students a chance to display their final projects, demonstrate their technical knowledge and show they are fully prepared for engineering jobs. The projects also represent a significant portion of students’ grades and represent the final step before graduation.

“Senior Design 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. Tackling problems in teams gives students a chance to collaborate, bring to life creative solutions, and gain confidence,” said Charles Reilly, associate dean for Academic Affairs at UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “The showcase is also a fantastic way for industry sponsors to witness the engineering skills of their potential future workforce.”

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 were showcased:

Solar-Powered Art Sculptures for OUC

Sponsored by the Orlando Utilities Commission, teams of mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science students worked with students in the UCF School of Visual Arts and Design to create four aesthetically-pleasing, interactive solar-powered sculpture designs. The intent is to give the public an opportunity to learn about solar power – an important renewable energy source – by experiencing, enjoying and engaging with a beautiful community centerpiece sculpture that also can contribute to a local power grid. The designs combine sound engineering principles, such as the ability to withstand hurricane force winds, and outdoor art concepts such as reflections and shadows. Later this month, one sculpture will be selected by OUC executives to be built full scale at up to 17 feet tall (about the height of a two-story home) and placed in a local Orlando-area community.

The four sculptures are: Dandelions (which visually represents the whimsical nature of children making a wish); High-Five (five pillars that feature eye-popping light displays that change depending on where people stand and touch the sculpture); Kites (reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity, visitors can step on a key and illicit a light display); and Sundial (interactive with lights and sounds, it casts shadows on the ground and represents London’s Big Ben clock combined with Orlando’s technological future.)

Battlebots for Lockheed Martin

Three teams of mechanical engineering, electrical, computer engineering and computer science students were challenged to create remote-controlled ground robots that engage in warfare with the purpose of reducing human casualties. The projects are part of Lockheed Martin’s Image Fusion Robot Competition. The robots can automatically detect and fire upon targets (with NERF blasters) using computer vision technology. The robots use lasers to gauge a target’s range.

Sea Turtle Tracking Drones

Three teams of mechanical and aerospace engineering students developed and tested drones to assist biologists in UCF’s Sea Turtle Research group track baby turtle migration once they enter the sea. Each team approached the project in different ways. For example, one team focused on waterproofing the system and ensuring at least 15 minutes of flight time with the ability to carry a one-pound payload, specifically a camera.

“Researchers want to get speed data on the hatchlings when they swim to sea and they also want to research migration to large sargassum seaweed clusters,” said Caillyn Caba, a mechanical engineering student.

Caba’s team took their drone on a test-flight in UCF’s softball field.

“We’re demonstrating the use of a GoPro camera mounted to the bottom of our drone to fit the researcher’s use. Additionally, we’re open sourcing our design as a low-cost do-it-yourself quadcopter frame.”