Wayne State engineering and computer science students showcase projects to industry and community at inaugural Student Design and Innovation Day

On May 8, guests from industry, local high schools and the community packed the Danto Engineering Center in Detroit to view a wide range of student-led engineering and computer science projects. The Wayne State University College of Engineering opened its doors as part of the inaugural Student Design and Innovation Day, with more than 100 Wayne State students representing 49 unique projects from all eight of the college’s departments.

Sponsored by the James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute (Anderson Institute), the event offered cash prizes of up to $1,000 to top projects, as determined by a panel of judges comprised of local industry leaders. Projects ranged from robots used to aid surgeons and physical prototypes of swings for children with special needs, to advanced software applications and concepts for safer roads.

“The broad scope of engineering, especially as it relates to solving problems and improving quality of life, was truly on display during Student Design and Innovation Day,” said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the WSU College of Engineering.

Judges evaluated the exhibits, asking students to describe the nuances of their projects and the impacts they might have on their disciplines and society at large.

“[It] was great to see the breadth of ideas on display and how excited the students were to have an audience with people from across industry,” said Richard Ansell, one of the judges and vice president of marketing for Mahindra North America Technical Center. “They seemed to be listening as much as they were presenting — always a key innovation building block.”

Many of the projects were sponsored by industry or government entities such as Urban Science, the U.S. Department of Transportation and New Center Stamping Inc.

The winning teams were:

First place:

Project Porta — an augmented reality motion comic book.

Students: Michael Simons, Mary Desjarlais, Mahmoud Eraqi (WSU Computer Science), Scott Kreutzkamp (College for Creative Studies), Horacio Hall (College for Creative Studies)

Second place: 

Potential Energy Storage Floor Mat for Pedestrian Use — a fluid system used to capture energy from foot traffic.

Students: Joseph Pisani, Randy Mathiesen, Steve Murphy, Andrew Lozen (WSU Mechanical Engineering)

Third place (two teams):

  1. Big Data Analysis: Predict Commodity Pricing (a General Motors-sponsored project) — the infrastructure for a machine that has the ability to predict commodity pricing by leveraging Twitter as a Big Data source, utilizing an advanced sentiment analysis and taxonomy to determine market trends.

Students: Joshua Davis, Alex Czarnik , Maria Ferreria, Sravan Nerella, Mohammad Anwar, Zaid Nackasha (WSU Computer Science)

  1. Outboard Boat Motor Service Tool — a hoist that allows a single individual to remove an outboard boat motor of up to 750 pounds from a boat loaded on a trailer.

Students: Andrew Skupien, John VanHouten, Jeffrey Meng, Jose Varela (WSU Mechanical Engineering)

The first-place team, Project Porta, demonstrated the synthesis of physical objects and digital content using the Unity Game Design engine and Qualcomm Vuforia, resulting in augmented reality that brought a comic book to life using a smartphone or smart glasses. The project was a collaboration between Wayne State computer science students and design students from the College for Creative Studies, also in Midtown Detroit.

“This is a great example of how our programs are not only crossing disciplines but also transcending institutional boundaries,” said Fotouhi.

At a post-event award ceremony, teams that received prizes introduced themselves and their projects. “I am so glad our team was able to participate in this great event and receive some seed money,” said Michael Simons, team lead for Project Porta. “We made helpful connections with industry professionals and other students.”

The College of Engineering plans to make Student Design and Innovation Day an annual event, and is working with faculty members and advisors to incorporate the event into capstone course syllabi and research projects.

“Interactions with industry and the public are a great training opportunity for our students and, in turn, we are able to highlight the strengths and qualities of our students to external stakeholders,” said Sorin Draghici, associate dean for innovation and entrepreneurship for the College of Engineering and director of the Anderson Institute. “Next year’s event will be even bigger and offer more prizes.”

The Anderson Institute, which is housed in the College of Engineering, was established through a gift from Wayne State civil engineering alumnus and CEO of Urban Science James Anderson and his wife, Patricia. Its goal is to serve as a beacon of the entrepreneurial spirit of Detroit by investing in ideas that become marketable technologies that change the world.

James Anderson also served as a judge for Student Design and Innovation Day.

“The projects were innovative, complex and practical. I saw a lot of opportunity to refine the products and hopefully take several of them to market in the near future,” he said.

View more pictures from the event