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A yearlong challenge

Marquette’s College of Engineering seniors face a final, yearlong challenge: the chance to test their engineering chops against real-life problems. Here is a sample of this year’s senior design projects.

Challenge: Make a self-casting fishing rod for people with disabilities.

Team: Andrew Bielecki, Joseph Radke, Paden Reed and John Seimetz

Adviser: Dr. Said Audi, associate professor of biomedical engineering

How do you create a fishing rod for someone with limited or no use of their hands or arms? That was the task issued by Fishing Has No Boundaries, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities fish independently.

“At first we thought it sounded simple,” says Bielecki, a senior in mechanical engineering. “But when we broke it down into the components and systems, it’s very complex.”

After interviewing potential users, the team discovered that people don’t want to buy all new gear. “We needed something that would cast for them but incorporate a lot of their existing equipment,” Bielecki explains.

The device must be lightweight, replicate the natural flicking motion of casting and land a lure 30 feet away. The team’s concept uses a double pendulum and electric motor to program the exact motion. The team is collaborating with students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to make the device ergonomic and attractive.

Challenge: Create a feature for X Games-style skiing and snowboarding

Team: Colin Griffin, Jason Myers, Alexander Thaus, Michael Andre, NJ Baylon and Jeffrey Watts

Adviser: Dr. Phil Voglewede, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Mark Mueller, Bus Ad ’12, wanted Mue, his snow and street apparel company’s name, on a tricky feature at Little Switzerland in Slinger, Wis. He turned to engineering students for help. Team members created digital models of their top three designs before settling on their favorite, which they hope to have developed and tested by April.

“We want to make sure that it’s safe and it’s durable,” says Myers, a senior in mechanical engineering.

The design consists of two quarter pipes connected by a 5-by-2-foot flat top, with two rails that extend another 12 feet. “This will be one of the first terrain park features fully engineered from start to finish,” Myers says.

“I am stoked,” Mueller says. “These guys have completed excellent research and it’s time to make their design into something real. I’ve already received good feedback from riders excited to test it out.”

Challenge: Redesign a stethoscope for use in developing countries

Team: Maritha John, Patrick Kelly, William Kucharski, Stephen Mosher, Jason Muething and Jon Skyba

Adviser: Dr. Vikram Cariapa, associate professor of mechanical engineering

In remote areas of India and other developing countries, the nearest hospital may be 200 miles away. Marquette students are creating a tool to help patients decide whether it’s worth the trek.

“We’re creating a digital stethoscope that will analyze patients’ lung sounds and diagnose whether they need further medical attention,” explains Mosher, a senior in biomedical engineering.

Although a similar device already exists, it costs hundreds of dollars. “We’re trying to come up with something that dramatically lowers the cost,” Mosher says.

Initially, the stethoscope will connect to a computer that provides the power and analysis. The ultimate goal is to turn the stethoscope into a stand-alone device. Another team will tackle that second stage.

“My contact in India was very positive about the design,” Cariapa says. “Because we are focusing on a real need of people for health care and because we are focusing on a very low-cost device, there is a high probability that this will be used in the future in all countries.”

Challenge: Develop a scalp-cooling product to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy

Team: Samantha Lisko, Trupti Patel and Melissa Thill

Adviser: Dr. Jay Goldberg, clinical associate professor of biomedical engineering

Why do many cancer patients lose their hair? As chemotherapy drugs travel through the blood stream, they reach and often kill hair follicles. Studies show that cooling the scalp during chemotherapy treatment reduces the likelihood of hair loss.

“If you cool the scalp, the blood vessels will constrict,” explains Thill, a senior in biomedical engineering. “If blood is not being delivered to the hair follicles, the drug is not delivered either.”

Scalp-cooling products are already used in Europe and Canada. A Fortune 500 company asked for Marquette’s feedback on the marketing potential for a similar product in the United States. After studying existing products and surveying medical professionals and cancer patients, the team designed a device that refrigerates and pumps coolant through a cap that a patient would wear during chemotherapy treatment. The students are co-designing with student collaborators from Smith College in Massachusetts and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

“A lot of companies are based in two different locations,” Thill says, “so learning to work on a team where everyone’s not in the same office will be a positive outcome that we’ll all get from this project.” NSE

Take a look at the entire slate of senior design challenges


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