University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Engineers Host Sneak Preview of the Future

On Friday, April 19, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted its 23rd annual Senior Design Project Day on campus, when 13 teams of ECE students unveiled their creative, useful, and socially conscious electronic inventions. The event was a high-tech floor show for the electronics of the future. This year’s senior design projects included electronic devices for the fast location of avalanche victims, teaching the guitar quickly, helping sports trainers diagnose concussions, and automating parking payments from a wireless platform. For full descriptions of all the projects, go to Senior Design Project.

The public review of these 13 senior design projects happened at the Gunness Engineering Student Center of Marcus Hall on the UMass campus from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on April 19, when students displayed their devices, demonstrated their functions, and answered questions from visitors on an individual basis.

Senior Design Day on April 19 is literally the capstone of the ECE education. “The Senior Design Project is not only the culminating project in the ECE curriculum,” says T. Baird Soules, the department’s undergraduate program director, “but it is also where students broaden their skill base by making presentations, working in teams, and staying within their budgets.”

For example, take the Mountain Avalanche Rescue System (Rescue System). Current methods for avalanche rescue make searching for victims slow and cumbersome. This solution will allow quick and easy location detection and will be robust in its resistance to cold, shock, and moisture. The device should also be portable, long-lasting, reliable, operable over a long range, and easy to use with gloves. The project will provide a complete system capable of location detection within the critical survival time for an average victim, even if buried.

Beginner Instructional Guitar (Guitar) hopes to help beginning players get over the initial learning curve. The player will be able to load a song of choice and slow it down. If a wrong note is played, then the guitar will vibrate; a more intuitive feedback for a new user. The correct fingering will be displayed via LED lights on the neck of the instrument to give some visual assistance as well.

Another project, the RCA: Real-Time Concussion Analyzer (Concussion Analyzer) is an integrated system that will provide real-time concussion analysis with player specific adaptability. RCA will collect impact data from player collisions on a continuous basis. The impact data will be analyzed by a concussion detection algorithm. The algorithm will calculate and output the risk of concussion that the player has suffered. This output will be easily interpreted by the coaches and trainers.

E-Z Parking (E-Z Parking) is for anyone who’s ever gotten a parking ticket because time ran out on the meter. With E-Z Parking, drivers will never have to worry about carrying quarters or overpaying at the meter again. The entire payment process will become an automated transaction by way of a wireless communication platform. The system will track how long a car has been parked and charge the registered user accordingly. The goal is to make the parking process simpler and more efficient for both the user and the town.

The Senior Design Project provides a crowning experience for undergraduate students in the ECE department. Students work in teams of four during a year-long course to design and build systems of their own conception. Each team is advised by a faculty member in the department, and projects undergo several formal reviews. The learning goals for the senior design project include technical design, an understanding of realistic constraints, ethics, and much more.

“The design project is as close as we can get to duplicating what these students will be doing in their professional lives,” says ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot. (April 2013)