Needed: Service projects for novice engineers

Dick Straub, chair of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering,  is soliciting help in identifying projects for InterEgr 160 (formerly EPD 160), Introduction to Engineering. This course introduces students to some basic engineering principles, allows them to explore different engineering disciplines, and introduces them to problem solving through a design project. It provides a service role to the community through the projects done.

The students are freshman engineers, so the problems cannot be too complex or technically demanding. They are best described as handyman-type projects — problems that lend themselves to a solution that can be designed and built or implemented by the students in the course and which meet a real need.

The affiliation of the client needing the project is not important, but the client must be willing to interact with the students to define the problem and answer any questions that might arise during the project. If a project has been chosen, the client is also invited to see the final presentation and will be the recipient of the students’ solution to the problem identified.

In previous years, a significant number of the course projects (there will be 20 this year) have come from CALS/BSE faculty and staff — in some years as many as one-third of the projects. The projects can be related to the university or to some other service or charitable group. Selected projects have a $300 budget. If the project requires more support than that, clients can supplement, but this is not the norm.

Examples of CALS-related projects in the past include a mobile feeding system for calves, a turf traffic simulator, vegetable washing and packing aids for farmers that direct market, a potato sampler/slicer, a soil elevator for the greenhouses, a fruit fly anesthetizer, mixing system for vaccine, a bug vacuum, a dairy facility gate design and a turf plot sprayer and a turf strength tester. There have also been projects for service groups — volunteer fire departments, food pantries, environmentally related projects, etc.

Again, these project need not be directed at only university-related problems, but can be directed at other “public good” type projects for service agencies, schools, small farms or businesses, etc.

A project request form is available for download here. Please email your suggestions to Dick Straub at or mail them to him at Biological Systems Engineering, 460 Henry mall. Call him at 890-0689 or 262-3311 if you have questions.

Suggestions are needed no later than August 10, 2007.