Project Expo to Showcase Learn by Doing Approach

Students in Lab
Students working on QL+ project

Paul Song (ME); Nina Yadlowsky (ME); Jake Barry (BMED) and Belle Liwag (MATE) are developing a soft socket for a prosthesis in the QL+ Lab. Photo by Dennis Steers.

Jarrett Holt’s senior project team is rushing to finish their motorized surfboard in time for the June 1 Project Expo. But the College of Engineering’s Learn by Doing showcase won’t be the last anyone sees the unique 12-foot board.

A week later, it will be in Pismo Beach, where AmpSurf, a non-profit, will use it to share “The Stoke” with disabled surfers, including many veterans.  “I think it will be awesome to see it being used,” said Holt, a mechanical engineering major from Renton, WA.

Students working on prosthesis project in QL+ Lab

Launched in 2006, the Project Expo features more than 200 individual and team senior projects, along with club creations.  This year’s event takes place at the Engineering Plaza between noon and 3 p.m. and will be followed by an Outstanding Student Award Ceremony. The projects on display are not only visually interesting, but they often wind up being put to use – or serving as prototypes for sponsors, who will refine the products, said biomedical engineering professor Lily Laiho. For students, the projects provide real design, build, test experience in a fun, collaborative environment. “It’s kind of fun to see that passion,” Laiho said.

Matthew Oatman (electrical engineering) and Vivian Mac (materials engineering) inspect their work-in-progress, a solar energy generator that can be dropped into disaster zones and developing countries.

This year’s projects include a “soft socket” leg prosthesis that will make a double-amputee more comfortable, a device that will pump cool water into the shirt of race car drivers in hot vehicles, a surgical tool for spinal surgery, and an EEG-controlled prosthetic hand with a hand-release function that can be controlled by intentional eye blinking. Many of the projects seek to benefit large groups, like a solar power generator on wheels that can be air-dropped into disaster areas or developing countries in need of electricity. “The selling point is that it’s super rugged,” said Matthew Oatman, an electrical engineering major from San Jose. After the expo, the project sponsor will refine the trailer and then seek investors to mass produce and ship worldwide. Oatman said he can easily envision companies using the trailers to provide power to countries in Africa and beyond. “If a group of students can do it here, they can do it in Niger,” he said.