UA Design Projects: Prototypes for Success
Senior design projects are frequently a steppingstone to bigger things, and here's the proof from four recent College of Engineering graduates.
University of Arizona College of Engineering seniors work on design projects each year, starting in the fall and finishing in May, and many receive job offers as a result. Meet four graduates whose projects landed them right where they wanted to be.
Industrial Engineer Hired by Shamrock Farms
UA industrial engineering major Ryan Dang sought a senior design project that would steep him in the challenges of product manufacturing and boost his chances of getting an engineering job in his home state. He got all that, and more.
Dang, of Tucson, was one of six UA engineering students in the Class of 2017 — from five different majors — who designed and built a better milk crate for Shamrock Farms, an Arizona-based dairy products manufacturer.
Shamrock's high-density polyethylene milk crates are used an average of 10 times before being stolen or damaged. Dang's team was charged with designing a lighter, safer and stronger crate for holding six one-gallon milk containers. They remodeled the crate with larger gaps, making it less useful for carting smaller items — and, therefore, less likely to be stolen. Most importantly, the remodeled 3-D printed crate had to be cost-efficient and readily accepted by retailers and consumers.
The team produced crates that used one-third less high-density polyethylene, resulting in a 16 percent cost saving per crate.
Dang provided weekly updates to Shamrock for his team, honing communications and presentation skills that landed him a full-time manufacturing job with the company, where he singlehandedly made the case to his new employer for the team's prototype crate.
"I spoke to 10 members of Shamrock's operations team, each in charge of different areas, like safety or quality assurance," he said. "They were impressed with the project and are now moving forward in trying to implement it."
Dang's team included agricultural and biosystems engineering students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Exoskeleton Project Leads to Biomedical Job
When biomedical engineering student Martin Galaz learned about a senior design project that involved creating an exoskeleton for a UA undergraduate student with cerebral palsy, he knew it would be a perfect fit for him.
Galaz was lead design engineer on the "Lightning Legs" project, initiated by Hermelinda Bristol for her son Jeffrey and supported with funds from family and friends.
"All I ever wanted was to make something meaningful out of my senior design project," said Galaz, who was raised in Mexico and interested in medicine from an early age. "The moment I saw Hermelinda's project on the list, it was my No. 1 choice."
Galaz studied biomedical engineering at Pima Community College before transferring to the College of Engineering in his junior year.
As a senior, he and his teammates spent many hours in the Bristols' home, tailoring the unpowered exoskeleton to help Jeffrey walk and exercise. On May 1 at Design Day — the culmination event of the Engineering Senior Design Program — Jeffrey and his mother demonstrated the exoskeleton to hundreds of visitors and watched their team win an award for engineering ethics.
"Within the first two weeks of using the exoskeleton, Jeffrey was able to stand and maintain his balance by himself," Galaz said. "He is making amazing progress, and I'm super excited to see what the future holds for his development."
This wasn't Galaz's first experience with biomedical devices. While attending the UA, he spent a summer interning at GSE Biomedical in his hometown of Hermosillo, Sonora. When applying for post-college jobs, he zeroed in on biomedical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet, one of the world's largest producers of orthopedic products.
"During my interview, the company asked a lot of questions regarding my senior design project," Galaz said. "I explained how our team was divided into two subgroups, and I was in charge of overseeing the entire design and manufacturing operation. The company liked that I was able to manage a group of engineers and the manufacturing team to come up with the final product."
Galaz started his new job in August as a quality engineer at Zimmer Biomet in Indiana, where he will be monitoring the manufacture of spine and joint prosthetics.
Self-Propelled From College to Caterpillar
Kyle Daughenbaugh has pursued his passion for machines on many levels, from building a single-passenger recumbent vehicle for a student club to maintaining massive earth-moving machines for Caterpillar.
At Sabino High School in Tucson, Daughenbaugh took Engineering 102 HS, an adapted version of the College of Engineering's introductory engineering course.
"I remember making all sorts of things, rockets and solar ovens," he said.
The Regent Scholar was able to skip taking the course as a UA freshman and had more time to work on human-powered vehicles in the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
He and other project team members sought donations so that their club could support the vehicle as their 2015-2016 project.
"The senior design project helped prepare me for working at Caterpillar," said Daughenbaugh, who interned at the company's proving grounds in Green Valley, Arizona, before working on the project. Since graduation, he has participated in Caterpillar's rotational training program, working at various locations, including the company's new offices in downtown Tucson.
"We’re testing Caterpillar's massive machines to their limits," he said. "Some are trucks with wheels 13 feet in diameter. Others are almost like small houses, with bedrooms and bathrooms."
Illinois-based Caterpillar announced that it was moving its new Surface Mining & Technology Division to Tucson at an especially fortuitous time for Daughenbaugh.
"I was presenting our senior design project on Design Day," he said, "when I received an email from my dad linking to the announcement that Caterpillar was moving its headquarters to Tucson."
New Hire Already Paying It Forward
Biomedical engineering major Summer Garland led her senior design project in developing a nasogastric tube placement-verification system, winning two top awards on Design Day 2016 for Best Presentation and Best Innovation. The project supporter, Tucson-based Xeridiem Medical Devices, hired her on the spot.
"I felt it was my responsibility to maintain an unmatched level of professionalism when interacting with Xeridiem, and ensure that this trait was reflected by our entire team," Garland said. "This included making it clear from day one that we were going to show up to the plant on time — meaning 10 minutes early — dress formally and come prepared to present our progress every single time."
The plan paid off. Garland graduated in December 2016 and took a job the next month as Xeridiem's customer success engineer. She works on new product design and development, strategic marketing data collection and analysis, and business development and innovation projects.
"I serve as the face of the company to external customers and as the voice of the customer for meeting internal requirements," she said.
Garland, who did an internship at Ventana Medical Systems before tackling her senior design project, advised the 2016-2017 Xeridiem-supported design team on further refining a sensor that measures acidity at the feeding tube insertion point. It's important work: Each year an estimated half a million nasogastric and endoscopic tubes are misplaced, which can be fatal. The team won the award for Best Prototyping.
"I know these students are better prepared for working in industry as a result of working on their senior design projects," Garland said.
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