Making It Real for Future Engineers

Making It Real for Future Engineers

“Projects we have completed demonstrate what we know – future projects decide what we will learn.”
― Dr. Mohsin Tiwana

When Bob Witter, CEO of Device Solutions, talks about his vision for the future, he is focused squarely on two things: how to insure that the company’s reputation for creative excellence is maintained, and how to pass along the core values and experiences that have shaped Device Solutions’ success. “This is not your typical corporation,” says Witter. “We started Device Solutions with a goal of doing great work by hiring and keeping good people employed “

Device Solutions’ commitment to people has more than paid off, but Witter and his co-founders are keenly aware of the need to support programs that help young engineers become the kind of outside-the-box thinkers their company needs. That’s why, when Witter was approached by a former colleague about supporting the ECE Senior Design program at NC State University, they agreed to participate.

The year-long program, which is required for seniors to graduate, is known as The Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Design Experience, or ECE Senior Design for short. It was created to prepare students for the workplace by giving them hands-on experience tackling real-world engineering challenges. Ideas for projects come from a variety of sources, including industry sponsors, faculty members, start-up companies, entrepreneurs and of course the students themselves. Students have the final say about which ideas to work on, but sponsors like Device Solutions are often chosen because they propose concepts related to actual projects related to solutions they are developing for clients.

According to Rachana Gupta, Associate Director of Senior Design who oversees the program, students are required to submit resumes, document their abilities, and make a case for which project they would like to focus on. “The scope of each project is clearly laid out before the students vote, and I have the final say about the teams,” Gupta explains. “I do my best to make sure each team has the right people with the right skills for the project they’ve chosen.” Still, as is the case in real-life, there are occasional glitches. “Problems are a good thing too,” Gupta laughs. “Life is like that, and students need to learn to cope with whatever issues come up.”

At the end of each semester, students’ present and demonstrate their completed projects at a public event known as ECE Senior Design Day. A panel of judges, composed of faculty and sponsors, chooses the top projects in three categories – Industry Application, The Internet of Things (loT) and Biological/Monitoring. Projects are judged based on the overall quality of the students’ presentation, the complexity of the challenge versus what was achieved, and how well the students were able to meet project requirements. “Judges also look for what I call the ‘Wow factor,’ Gupta adds.

This semester’s ECE Senior Design Day was held on December 4th, where Device Solutions’ CTO, Chris Lamb, took part as one of the judges. “The whole experience has been positive and productive,” says Lamb. “Though none of our projects were chosen this semester, two of our previous projects have influenced Device Solutions products.”

Ever since the ECE Senior Design became a full, year-long requirement to graduate, the program has been growing in size and popularity. “The program has grown because everyone can see the value and benefits to both the students and industries that participate,” Gupta says. “It’s a real win-win for everyone.”

– Jena Ball

Winners of the Fall 2015 ECE Senior Design Competition

Category A: Industry Application

#1 – Allen Industries Solar Power Pylon Signs
Team Members: David Cox, Josh Krasnigor, Catie McEntee and Brian Palmer

#2 – PCB Inspection Station
Team Members: Jelani Allen, Billy Newlin, Thomas Hooks and Mariano Lowenstern

Category B: Internet of Things (loT)

#1: Smart Soccer Ball – Also won 2nd place overall
Team Members: Guiyang Fan, Joshua Miller, Joshua Puente, Robert Dates and Samruddhi Kulkarni

#2: EcoPRT Onguideway Navigation System
Team Members: Kevin Yu, Ken Ackerman, Marshall Newberry and Chris Niver

Category C: Biological/Monitoring

#1: Ant Trap – Also won first place overall
Team Members: Jamal Ayoubi, Jose Zavala, Zachary Parker and Bishop Minter

#2: Smart Hive Thermal Monitoring
Team Members: David Wilson, Andrew Eason, Thomas Dotson and Joe Panzl