For the students in the University of Colorado’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Capstone Laboratory this semester, senior year just became a lot easier.
The nearly 20 seniors presented their final projects to professor Tom Brown and a small group of spectators Thursday morning, after spending an entire semester perfecting their inventions — and hopefully their grades.
“The semester does rest on this project,” Brown said. “They may start the semester spending about 10 hours a week on this class. But for these last few weeks, they’re putting in around 40 hours per week.”
But now that it’s over, these students can take a little weight off their senior shoulders and focus on their final semester and maybe even a few job prospects.
“This is a big class for these students,” Brown said. “The project incorporates information they’ve learned throughout the previous three years in all of their classes and puts it to practical use.”
Thomas Horacek and his partner Lucas Greve developed a sophisticated key finder chip that can attach to any device or even a person to help avoid misplacing or loosing everyday items.
The quarter-sized device can be placed on keys, wallets, computers or even toddlers. Once activated, a cell phone-like beeper will notify the user when the object that has been tagged is too far away. The range is flexible and can be set at distances as close as 30 feet to more than 300 feet.
“It’s nice because you can use this to notify you when anything is getting too far away,” Horacek said. “So when you drop your wallet and walk more than 30 feet from it, your device will vibrate and beep so you don’t get too far before realizing it’s gone.”
The students recommend using it at daycare or nursing home facilities to help confine children or elderly people for their own protection by clipping the chip to a belt loop or adding it to a wristband.
Joe Kramer and his two teammates are hoping for an “A” on their project, the KnoteBox.
The team wrote software that recognizes harmonic notes and registers or repeats them through a generic computer program, similar to an advanced version of Apple’s GarageBand.
“You could use it to play ‘Guitar Hero,’ but with your own guitar and computer instead of buying a system and plastic paired instrument,” Kramer.
The project can also be used as a guitar tuner or transcriber, or to create special effects for performances. With a little tweaking, the program could be compatible with any harmonic instrument.
Other projects include a 3-D printer, which can produce small plastic items such as chess pieces or kitchen utensils, and a fiber that measures pressure and temperature that could be applied to bridges or buildings to measure warning signs of possible collapse or the heat of flammable materials.
One team of four created a robotic artist that draws a design the user inputs through a touch pad onto paper or other materials.
The robot has red, green and blue colors and rolls across the floor, restricted to the dimensions of the paper, which is input by the user.
“This could be good for chalking, like what students do all over campus, or painting lines on a sports field,” senior Niket Sheth said. “It could also be helpful to someone who is handicapped or even just a new tool for artists.”
Brown said the students did very well this year, and after 22 years of teaching the engineering capstone, he’s seen a little bit of everything.
“As technology continues to advance, so does the work that our students do in this class and others,” Brown said. “The spring semester is already shaping up to be an interesting one.”