Meet the 2021 Senior Design Teams
Senior Design is a year-long course required for all engineering seniors to graduate. Each team of 3-7 seniors is mentored by both the Engineering faculty and their project sponsor.
Sponsors gain the first-hand experience of working with potential future employees to see their project to fruition. Our seniors hone their collaborative team skills while fulfilling their commitment of creating real-life deliverables for their sponsors.
Energy and Environment
Ignobex: Protect Your Fortress from Wildfires
The Ignobex Fire Fortress is an exterior fire protection system aimed at increasing the survival rate of structures from wildfires. In the last 15 years, 89,000 structures were destroyed by wildfires (over half occurred in the past four years). By dousing the structure in a flame-retardant solution, The Ignobex Fire Fortress seeks to protect structures from embers that could travel over a mile away from a fire and ignite the structure causing it to burn down. With a cost-effective system and simplified user experience, The Ignobex Fire Fortress will create a community with confident homeowners in high-risk areas.
The Ignobex Fire Fortress system interprets the threat of an oncoming fire through a network of sensors: temperature sensors, smoke sensors, and thermal imaging cameras. This network will communicate with the central hub which activates the waterfall system. Once the waterfall system is activated, a flame-retardant solution will be distributed about the roof and walls of the structure. The pipe system consists of weatherproof and heat-resistant tubing with equally spaced emitters. The full coverage of the house reduces potential ignition from flying embers or fast-moving flames.
The system will impact communities, families, and businesses by reducing damages and costs caused by a wildfire and most importantly, saving lives. The Ignobex Fire Fortress has a broader goal of communities working under a collaborative mindset. When multiple houses in a neighborhood have this system, wildfire destruction will decrease.
Due to extreme droughts and climate change, wildfires are only projected to intensify and spread to new areas. The standard firefighting techniques are dangerous and costly leaving the front-line workers doing the best they can to stop the fire’s proliferation. Even with all available resources, there is no protocol for protecting individual homes. There is an increasing need for a better technological solution and The Ignobex Fire Fortress is here to meet that need.
Team: Oli Hassan (Team Captain), Tristan Wright, Daniel Ortiz, Kendall McBeth, and Adriel Sanes
Intelligent Home Energy Monitoring
Sponsor: DU Solar Decathlon
Climate change has been a concern for the general public now more than ever. However, most people are unsure of how they can make an impact. In a recent survey, sixty-five percent of Americans have at least one smart home device, and many purchased the smart technology because it decreases environmental impact. Our system provides a way to make an impact on climate change by allowing users access to their energy consumption data which can increase savings on the energy bill. The system is entirely non-invasive and primarily open-source, which lessens the technological barrier for homeowners. Our project will increase energy efficiency, decrease costs for the user, and improve operations and comfort in the home.
Our efforts produced an innovative system with 3 main components. First is the smart thermostat, which natively increases HVAC system operational efficiency and homeowner comfort. In addition, one of the most helpful features is that it also interfaces remotely with the system processor. The Smart Thermostat is a Honeywell T9, which includes smart programming, wireless temperature sensors, and most helpfully a HTTP-based internet datastream, accessible from a 3rd party system like ours. Second is the electrical monitoring section, which uses a combination of the eGauge installed in the house and custom-built current clamps to accurately record electric consumption and solar generation. Raw sensor data is pushed through an Arduino, which formats those values and sends the signal along an I2C connection to the system’s central processor. The third component, a central processor, is a RaspberryPi 4B+, which is connected over the home’s Wi-Fi to the Smart Thermostat and eGauge, and has a wired connection to the Arduino. The system then analyzes the data and populates a PowerBI screen which provides a visual summary of energy usage.
It is our hope that this system can be widely implemented in households. Without incurring a large expense, it will give homeowners valuable data about their lifestyles, and help improve efficiency across a large sector of the energy market. This allows the general public to save money on their energy bills, maximize the comfort level of their home and make a positive impact on the environment.
Team: Madison Hardy (Team Captain), David Crider, Khai Nguyen, Alex Nguyen, and Luca Gacy
Community Off-Grid Living: DC Microgrid
The NRGlytics microgrid design project creates a feasible design for an island DC microgrid that can generate, distribute and store electrical power to successfully meet all load requirements for a 30-year phased mountain community. The design includes an interactive 3D topographical map to better demonstrate grid functionality for non-technical personnel. Typical community loads were incorporated into the Hybrid Optimization Model for Multiple Energy Resources (HOMER) program to simulate the system's expected production and cost. Furthermore, the phased central solar array and central storage facility was sized with all accompanying control and safety systems. The design was evaluated and approved by a licensed professional engineer. Feasibility reports with various configurations for renewable and power systems with predicted and optimized cost results were obtained. The final product consists of two components, each with two respective subsystems. One is the development plan for the community, with a one-line diagram that satisfies the developers' need for a complete design; it depicts the phased living community, phased central solar array and phased central storage system. Multiple HOMER simulations of the proposed phases were used to determine feasibility based on components and location to allow investors to understand the configuration, renewable fraction, and cost associated with each phase.
The second component of the product is the model designed as an interactive topographical map of the development. The map demonstrates basic functionality of the grid with homes, distributed generation, and storage, as well as centralized storage and production. The map utilizes a Raspberry Pi 3b+, LED light arrays, small solar panels, potentiometers, and other electronics to allow the user to visualize different grid scenarios. Five cabins and the surrounding topography are visualized on the map. These products allow the client to move forward with their development partners on the construction of the grid. Furthermore, the community model will allow the client to easily demonstrate the functionality of the project to potential investors and visually show plans for expansion. On a global scale, there are only 13 other fully island living communities, there are many off-grid homes and renewable facilities, but not communities larger than 50 people. Designing a fully renewable off-grid development demonstrates the feasibility for sustainable gridless development anywhere. This has an impact in rural areas lacking access to reliable power and increases the ease of access to reliable power for important facilities, such as hospitals and schools.
Team: Jesse Kahn (Team Captain), Lucas Smeds, and Peter Rowe
Reducing Methane Emissions in Pigging
Sponsor: DCP Midstream
In order to effectively transport natural gas and other petroleum products, pipelines are the most effective means. To maintain the pipeline, it is necessary to pass a “pig”, or a deforming plug that wipes the inner diameter of the pipeline, using the flow and pressure to motivate the pig to pass through the line. Pigs must be removed and installed after a leg of the pipeline circuit is blown down, or depressurized, for safety. Historically, the blowdown process allowed for these gasses to escape directly into the atmosphere. Following blowdown, the atmospheric air must be removed from the pipeline as it is a contaminant to the natural gas. According to an EPA report on methane emissions from the natural gas production sector, blowdown and purge accounts for roughly 10% of emissions contributions.
The engineering group has designed a process for these blowdown gasses to instead be recirculated into the pipeline. Recirculation removes multiple safety risks, increases value for DCP Midstream, and accommodates future changes of emissions standards. The critical subsystem is an eductor, which operates on Bernoulli’s principle. A venturi effect is induced by a primary flow (main pipeline flow) to create a pressure differential to evacuate the secondary flow (blowdown gasses). The operation of the system utilizes few additional valves compared to the current process and does not contribute significant time over the current process. Implementation of the system will also use a “flange to flange” design, allowing for the modification to current systems be a bolt-up process, rather than welding in the field. Overall, its design is inherently robust, and effective in recirculating up to 95% of blowdown gasses. In DCP’s case, each blowdown releases roughly 900 cubic feet, about the volume of an average classroom.
The fluid mechanics of the eductor and peripheral components introduce significant changes to flow, pressure, and temperature over the domain. For this, it was necessary to calculate these changes to a relative certainty as to not introduce novel risks. Excessive velocities, pressures, and changes in temperature can introduce danger and potential failure to the pipeline, so it was necessary for the system to not reach these levels. To best predict these changes, both Computational Fluid Dynamics and verification calculations were made. Critical values include entrainment ratio, erosional velocity, and maximum operating pressure.
Implementing the blowdown bypass system in pig stations will reduce a significant percentage of methane emissions. DCP Midstream will be proactively decreasing its emissions footprint while adding value from the reduced waste. It is the team’s best hope that the petroleum industry will continue to adopt new methods to continue to reduce the emissions impact of oil and gas production.
Team: Chris Sturt-Dilley (Team Captain), Ayman Alawami, Benjamin Hoy, and Emilio Diaz Perez
Robotics and Automation
Trimble Autonomous Solutions (TAS) is a division of Trimble Inc. performing research and product development for autonomous solutions in agriculture and construction. Their systems use GNSS, RADAR, and LIDAR data to maximize the efficiency of agricultural machines like tractors, harvesters, and combines. These systems are regulated by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). The ISO-18497 standard is defined as a minimal cylindrical object that is filled with water for assessing the detection of humans for agricultural machine safety. This cylindrical object is coined “Dave” at Trimble and is manually placed and localized in the field of view of their autonomous machines. Trimble wants a mobilized and auto-localized Dave that adheres to the ISO-18497 standard, so they do not have to manually pick up and localize the water tank (Dave) on the testing field. This can allow for dynamic testing, such as moving Dave across the field while their perception systems detect it. As a result, a remote-controlled mobile Dave will significantly speed up the research and development of safety-related perception systems.
A low-profile platform robot was designed and produced to mobilize Dave. The robot can move payloads, such as Dave, that can be attached to the robot’s platform using ratcheting straps. The system is capable of being controlled over a long-distance communication (~50m) by a remote user input. The robot can transmit its real-time location to the remote user for auto-localization. The robot comes fully equipped with necessary safety features and protocols to maximize the safety of the user and their environment, as well as improve the longevity of the robot. These safety features include a wireless emergency stop, filleted edges on all custom-manufactured parts, and Ingress-Protection (IP) rated enclosure for most electronics. The robotic platform can traverse up a 10-degree incline with the full weight of Dave on top and is capable of basic navigation such as: moving forwards, backwards, and performing a zero-point turn over dirt terrain. Thus, the robot can be used towards improving the safety of TAS employees, efficiency of overall testing duration by mobilizing Dave, and confidence of the perception system by implementing dynamic test trials to simulate a moving Dave while adhering to the ISO-18497 specification.
Team: Tevin De La Garza (Team Captain), Samuel Mattei, Quang Nguyen, Christian Ramos, and Matthew White
Flovio Office: Next Generation Luminaire
Sponsor: Cooper Lighting
Cooper Lighting is a multinational company creating the next generation luminaire for the workspace which will provide lighting, airflow, and air purification. The light fixture, FLOVIO Office, will reduce fatigue, eye strain, and headaches while simultaneously increasing airflow and oxygen to the brain through the bladeless fan feature. FLOVIO Office will disinfect air to reduce the spread of pathogens, connect coworkers with music through Amazon Alexa, and increase the productivity of the user benefiting both individuals and employers.
Cooper Lighting employed a team to create FLOVIO Office to be an innovative and customizable suspended light fixture made for employee users in the office segment. FLOVIO Office uses a Wi-Fi connection through an Android and Apple (IOS) compatible application to allow for personalization and control over the FLOVIO Office’s many features. The bladeless fan feature of FLOVIO Office is triangular which offers a unique aesthetic while maintaining functionality. The user can adjust the motor speed of the bladeless fan to his or her ideal airflow as well as having free control of internal heating elements to achieve the ideal temperature in his or her space. If the user so chooses, the lights around the structure will change color temperature throughout the day following the sun path to allow for a more natural lighting environment. This feature can be overridden if the user prefers a particular light color on the warm to cool scale to best suit his or her productivity. FLOVIO Office is supposed to be innovative to provide ambient air-purifying to the user through the use of Upper Air GUV. Finally, there will be an available voice-controlled Amazon Alexa add-on to allow for music and sounds throughout the day at the user’s discretion.
Team: Celina Wilkerson (Team Captain), Vincent Aldana, Tarkin Eckersley, Anni Heck, and Eduardo Navarro
Flovio Home: Next Generation Luminaire
Sponsor: Cooper Lighting
Cooper Lighting Solutions (CLS) has been a leader in the lighting industry for over 60 years. CLS products consist of a large range of lights, control systems, and building network systems. They develop innovative technology to create a smarter, safer, and brighter world. The University of Denver teamed up with CLS to create a revolutionary system that is controlled from a smartphone or voice command. This new lighting system, called the Flovio Home, seeks to improve productivity, health, and happiness in the home or office.
The Flovio Home includes four subsystems: bladeless fan, light, air purification, and audio. The bladeless fan subsystem increases the air circulation in the room, operates under an ambient noise threshold, and contains a heater. The light subsystem uses LEDs with adjustable color temperature and brightness. The air purification subsystem includes a filter and GUV light to capture small particles and eliminate bacteria and viruses. The audio subsystem plays user-selected music or provides active noise cancellation.
The Flovio Home will allow users to work effectively and comfortably, increasing productivity and success. The device provides added benefits of improved retinal health, fewer headaches, and sanitized air. This all-encompassing device provides a modern aesthetic that will have users wanting a Flovio in every room of their house.
Team: Charles Sears (Team Captain), Zane Travis, Ian Mungai, Daniel Madry, Yi-Cheng Lin, and Andrew Swift
Intelligent 3D-Printing Using Data
Sponsor: Ahead Wind
Ahead Wind is making Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D-Printing more reliable and effective. FDM is the 3D-Printing method in which successive layers of molten thermoplastic are fused together to create the desired end product. FDM printers are still in the early stages of development, resulting in machines that struggle to create parts beyond prototyping. Most 3D-printers operate unsupervised and unanalyzed over extended periods of time, resulting in repeated machine failures without any fundamental understanding of the failure mechanisms. Existing printers contain minimal feedback on the health of the part being printed and the printer itself. For our project, we focused on making a smarter, data-rich 3D-printer that gives the operator an idea of what is occurring during the print and identifies why certain failures occur.
The Ahead Wind printing system consists of several subsystems used to send printer commands (G-Code) and to collect and store printer data. The heart of the control system is a Raspberry Pi 4 which parses G-Code to send to the printer control board. Data from the ambient temperature sensor, the ambient humidity sensor, the force gauge, and the infrared sensor installed on the printer are obtained using an Arduino, which sends data packets back to the Raspberry Pi. That sensor data packet is combined with G-Code metrics and finally stored in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) database. Once in the storage database, data can be visualized in real-time and be used for in-depth visualization and analysis after the print is completed.
This project will impact the FDM industry by reducing wasted time and material from failed prints. The system will help identify when a print is subject to failure and why that failure occurred. Without our system, the failed print would continue wasting valuable plastic and time. This system will also provide insights that could help a manufacturer or printer operator determine the material properties of the plastic and the quality of the plastic adhesion. This will help printer operators determine if the print meets their specifications in more detail than a visual inspection or test. Ultimately, the Ahead Wind system is an essential building block for a more complex system that will actively rectify the problems as they occur.
Team: Tim Bouraoui (Team Captain), Meier Werthan, Peter Frank, and Thomas Rauner
Wearables, Biomechanics, and Biotechnology
The Mad Dasher
Sponsor: Blind Institute of Technology
Close or squint your eyes. Your field of vision is impaired. For 280 million people worldwide impaired or total loss of vision is an everyday reality. Being physically active can be a challenge for those that are visually impaired, The Mad Dasher project can change that. The Mad Dasher project has been sponsored by the Bind Institute of Technology (BIT) who specializes in creating equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Mike Hess, the Executive Chair and Founder of BIT, kickstarted this project with the goal of making physical exercise more accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired. This is done by creating a device that enables running, jogging, and hiking using a wireless sensor network that is attached to a running pack. The sensor network consists of a smart camera and a distance sensor that gathers heading and distance information of the sighted guide, who is leading the path. Then a custom-made algorithm processes the data and communicates that information to the person who is visually impaired, who will be known as the follower. The position information is communicated to the follower through haptic and audio feedback. This allows the follower to stay in a safe zone, behind the guide. The system will be controlled from an IOS application. The app can set a variety of settings within the system. An example of these setting options is a customizable safe zone that can keep the follower within a specific distance behind the guide. A second example is to switch and optimize the safe zone based on whatever activities the follower is doing, such as walking or hiking. This project will increase the independence of those that are visually impaired, making physical exercise more accessible and improving their overall quality of life.
Team: David Heinrich (Team Captain), Edmund Hoes, Amy Lavelle, and Saud Belal
Pressure Sensing Smart Sock
Sponsor: BOA Technology
BOA Technology aims to improve the performance of athletes through their proprietary fit system. Obtaining pressure data from the entire foot will allow BOA Technology to optimize their system. With our form-fitting pressure sensing smart sock, users are able to receive real-time data into how their feet interact with their shoes. Currently, there are limited systems capable of measuring pressure on the entire dorsum (top) of the foot. The sensor system that we have created, observes pressure applied to the dorsum of the foot in real-time, allowing users to compare and contrast the pressure experienced during an activity between the shoe and the foot. Our system optimizes an ergonomic design, utilizing a sensor array to record pressure on the whole dorsum without impeding the performance of athletes. The smart sock is easily attached to the foot and fits into any type of shoe. The smart sock relays data via Wi-Fi to a user's mobile device. Data is displayed graphically in real-time, allowing users to analyze their gait on the go. Our system has applications in biomechanical research, allowing scientists the ability to better analyze the shoe-foot relationship. The system can also be used to enhance athletes performance by better understanding the appropriate tightening methods for elite athletic performance.
Team: Nate Vance (Team Captain), Cam Curtiss, Theo Heimann, Morgan Hovermale, and John Sabin
Simulator for Foot and Ankle Biomechanics
Sponsor: University of Denver
Movements in the foot and ankle come from 33 joints, comprised of 26 bones and surrounding soft tissues. Lab testing can help provide insight into the biomechanics, kinematics, and loading of the foot and ankle during dynamic activities, and can answer a wide range of questions related to normal biomechanics, pathologies, and interventions (orthotics and orthopaedic implants). The objective of this project is to develop a mechanical testing system capable of consistently loading the foot and ankle under physiological conditions.
Key requirements for the design include the ability to simulate movements of people in a variety of activities of daily living, as well as more extreme loading conditions linked to sport and recreation (e.g. cutting motion). The system should replicate the kinematics and kinetics of dynamic activities, with forces up to 2500 N and a range of angles from perpendicular to 40 degrees relative to ground. Integrated sensors should continuously monitor motions and accelerations to ensure repeatability.
The design consists of four main subsystems: control, actuation, structural, and sensing. A Raspberry Pi serves as the central control for the system, including actuations via a double-sided 4/3 solenoid valve. The triple rod pneumatic actuator recreates the force and contact duration of the motion. By adjusting the actuator orientation and custom ankle mechanism, anatomical positions and loadings can simulate a wide range of activities. The actuator has a stroke length of eight inches and utilizes a triple rod, instead of a single rod, to prevent unwanted axial rotations. Pressure and flow control valves provide adjustability for maximum force and speed. A custom-designed frame, using 80/20 aluminum, ensures a rigid structure to contain the movement of the actuator, and allows adjustability and fixation of the impact surface.
Angles, movement metrics, and impact effects, are measured with a combination of sensors, including inertial measurement units, an integrated actuator position sensor, and video cameras. These sensors provide measures of foot acceleration, time in contact with the ground, ankle position, and actuator position, which can be used to ensure repeatable movements. This test system can provide repeatable replication of the loads and motions at the foot and ankle, with potential to influence the design of orthotics and interventions.
Team: Mackenzie Looney (Team Captain), Emma Rubinstein, Ignacio Rivero Crespo, Calli Ohlin, Emma Alm, Yared Asmelash, and Mattia Ros
Depth Control for Safer Neurosurgery
Sponsor: Neurosurgery One
The objective of this project is to reduce the time required to perform stereotactic neurosurgery. Currently, the procedure requires the surgeon to carefully feel how far they have drilled through the patient's skull using haptic feedback. This is time-consuming since the surgeon must drill anywhere between ten to twenty cranial holes, making sure each time to drill slowly to avoid injuring the patient.
To solve this problem, we designed a device that controls the drill bit penetration depth. Using this design, the surgeon can quickly drill several holes, and achieve precise adjustments, each at varying depths, without the fear of plunging. The device uses a threaded rod and a custom-made metric ruler to allow the user to quickly and accurately set the guide to the desired depth. The self-locking nature of the threaded rod prevents any inadvertent motion after the depth is set. It’s designed to attach to the drill bit of common models of cranial drills, meaning it can be used in conjunction with a variety of stereotactic neurosurgery frames and guidance systems.
Implementing this device in surgery will increase the overall safety of the procedure by decreasing surgical time and eliminating the risk of drill plunging. Decreasing surgical time has the potential to decrease the price of the procedure and make it more accessible, overall increasing the quality of life for neurosurgical patients.
Team: Emma Young (Team Captain), Destan Norman, and Malak Rafik
Non-Invasive Pre-Symptomatic Diagnosis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Sponsor: DU Knoebel Institute of Healthy Aging
Neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) often have no cures, ineffective treatments, and limited methods of diagnosis. For example, more than one million Americans are currently suffering from Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The most common symptom of PD is physical tremors which are treated through an invasive surgery that only delays symptomatic progression and not the neurodegenerative process. At this point 60%+ of the brain’s dopamine cells are dead. PD can only be diagnosed with certainty by a postmortem brain biopsy and diagnosis based on tremors alone is inaccurate 40% of the time. However, biological changes associated with PD occur 15 to 20 years prior to the onset tremors.
Capillary Zone Electrophoresis (CZE) is an analytical technique capable of detecting multiple biomarkers that have been associated with the progression of NDDs using a blood sample. For PD, CZE can detect molecular changes associated with the reduction in dopamine production prior to the onset of clinical symptoms. CZE functions by separating molecules within a capillary based on their size and electrical charge. These molecules then pass through a laser beam causing them to produce fluorescence proportional to the amount present, thus enabling classification and quantification.
While CZE systems have been developed for research purposes, challenges with pushing the sensitivity, lengthy analysis times, and environmental influences have prevented the technology from being deployed on a commercial scale for clinical applications. To overcome these issues, a Knoebel Institute of Healthy Aging-developed modular CZE system has been designed to leverage technical improvements in each critical subsystem. The pressure regulation assembly has been simplified to target only positive pressure injection, increasing sample acquisition rate and removing mechanical failure points. Both the photomultiplier and optical conditioning hardware have been modified to allow objective lenses with 60% more sensitivity to be implemented. An updated capillary mounting assembly has been modularized to match the updated optical configuration. A redesigned operational program is now compatible with the latest Windows 10 operating system providing discrete control over each component and enabling rapid integration of future hardware or software modifications. This feature also enables sample data to be automatically processed using machine learning to ensure accurate diagnosis. System electronics are integrated onto a custom designed printed circuit board, further supporting future hardware integration as the analytical technique and commercially available hardware improves over time.
The completion of this CZE system marks a critical next step in converting the research-focused analytical technique into a commercially available diagnostic tool. Its modular structure enables faster design updates, allowing the hardware to keep pace with advancements in the CZE technique itself. By diagnosing NDDs before the onset of symptoms, new treatments and therapies can be developed as a result of the commercial application of CZE.
Team: Jordan A. Smith (Team Captain), Bobby Chopra, Kenna Holder, Noah Elfenbein, and Lesley Figueroa