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Cal State LA showcases senior design projects at expo

May 11, 2023
Engineering students post for a group photo.
Photo: A team of students from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology presenting their senior project at this year's Capstone Senior Design Expo. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

Cal State LA showcases senior design projects at expo

May 11, 2023
Engineering students post for a group photo.
Photo: A team of students from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology presenting their senior project at this year's Capstone Senior Design Expo. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

Missaira Cortez has always been fascinated by airplanes and chose to design a model plane for her senior design project. 

“[Our] model plane has to be 3D printed on the outside with electronics on the inside that control the wings to make it stable during flight. We are only able to control the plane from our remote control for five seconds, then let it go for it to soar on its own,” she said. 

Cortez, a mechanical engineering major, is among more than a hundred seniors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST) who presented their culminating projects during the Capstone Senior Design Expo at Cal State LA this past Friday. These projects were sponsored by corporate and university partners. 

The expo, which was held at several locations throughout campus, featured dozens of projects, including prototype designs and software applications for robotics, sustainability, transportation, public safety, and more.  

This year, several teams of students were challenged to develop a lightweight, 3D printable airplane with the most innovative design and the longest flight duration. They had to integrate design and manufacturing to maximize performance; design within the 3D printing process and material constraints; and leverage direct digital manufacturing technologies. 

Cortez explained that choosing the right material for the 3D printing machine is important when building the plane.  

“Whether it is nylon or carbon fiber type, it has to be strong, durable, and not break if the plane crashes when it lands on the ground,” said Cortez, who has a job lined up at Lockheed Martin as a quality engineering associate after graduation.  

“The shape of the wing matters too,” she added, “there’s some aerodynamics that goes with it, but basically do you want a rectangular-shaped wing, a curvy one, or a spikey one? Your shape helps with wing flow going around it, which creates forces that either make the plane go up or go down.”  

The teams’ projects will take flight during the inaugural California State University 3D-Printed Fixed-Wing Aircraft Competition on Saturday, May 20, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, at the Jesse Owens Track and Field at Cal State LA. This event is hosted by the College of ECST.  

Working with Southern California Edison, another team of students developed a virtual reality training simulation to teach independent contractors relevant installation steps when working with and around electric poles.  

“One of our most important objectives was to use virtual reality to enforce the correct procedures and safety protocols in order to teach the students and potentially save lives,” said Denise Tabilas, a computer science major, who presented at the expo. 

Tabilas plans to apply her knowledge and experience to launch a startup business with her friends after graduation.  

“By learning to effectively communicate, compromise, and practice patience with my team, I am now confident in my ability to succeed in future endeavors after graduation, and I hope to set an example as more women are entering this field,” she shared. 

Students also designed and built an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can complete specific tasks at the annual RoboSub competition sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The objective is to enable the AUV to navigate the competition environment, identify competition tasks, and complete them autonomously. 

Another group worked with We2Link to build a web application to help people with memory problems and integrate a caregiver support system. They implemented a way for storing recollections of events, facts, and dates both on mobile devices and in the cloud platform, so users can retrieve them anywhere online. Also, different features were included in the web app such as digital folders to save photos and videos, as well as the option to provide caregivers access to help manage information or content to remember. 

Additionally, a team of civil engineering seniors was presented with an opportunity by Aztec Engineering Group, Inc. to design a sustainable and feasible residential community project in Corona, CA. Their project was to develop a site plan addressing effective designs for its retaining walls, hydraulics, road design, drainage, utility configuration, and an environmental assessment to ensure constructability, sustainability, and feasibility.  

Launched in 2008, the Capstone Senior Design Program aims to provide students with a capstone experience in which they apply their theoretical knowledge to real applications. The program engages students in an industry-defined problem, where students work with an actual client to solve a real problem.  

Projects involve teams of four or five engineering, computer science, or technology students; a faculty advisor; and a technical liaison from the sponsoring company, working collaboratively for a full academic year. 

“The goal is to give our students an opportunity for a broader experience, requiring the integration of classroom knowledge with problem solving and innovation, through projects both engaging and transformative; something that helps prepare them for advanced studies or a professional career,” said Michael Thorburn, director of the Capstone Senior Design Program. 

For information on other senior projects, please visit the Capstone Senior Design Expo website.

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