Fifth annual Design Day spotlights record number of engineering student innovations

Nearly 100 projects created by more than 250 students in the Wayne State University College of Engineering were on display at the fifth annual Student Innovation and Design Day, sponsored by the James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute.

"This year's Design Day was the most successful such event so far," said Sorin Draghici, professor of computer science and director of the Anderson Institute. "It truly showcased both the knowledge and the capabilities of our students."

Design Day projects cover a wide range of applications and engineering disciplines, and demonstrate students' solutions to engineering challenges as well as commercial and social needs. The event offers up to $1,000 in cash prizes to the best projects, and reflects the mission of the Anderson Institute to foster entrepreneurism through investment in marketable technologies.

"Project topics ranged from methods to improve upon industrial processes, to an autonomous vehicle that can track and catch falling objects, to a foldable wheelchair that can adjust its height electronically, to a device for towing aircraft," said Draghici. "Many of these new ideas will be pursued by their teams on a commercialization path with the help of the Anderson Institute."

2019 Student Innovation and Design Day

Two teams tied for first-place honors. Biomedical engineering student Jean-Yves Azar presented a new biomaterial filler for nerve gaps that could lead to functional recovery of nerves severed due to injury.

"Two years ago, I heard about ongoing research in biomaterials from my professor (Harini Sundararaghavan), and I soon after joined her research project. As a chemical engineering student starting in a biomedical engineering lab, I brought a unique perspective and a diverse skillset," said Azar. "I discovered that participating in undergraduate research helped to cultivate my engineering skills using principals of design and experimentation."

The other top project was submitted by chemical engineering student Laura Paz Herrera, who proposed a study on new design methods for producing 3-D catalytic environments to minimize use of non-renewable precious metals while increasing atomic activity and improving nanoparticle stability.

Second place was awarded to Gui Chen and Marcella Gatti, who presented titanium nitride nanotube electrodes intended to provide improved biocompatibility and reduced tissue damage when implanted as a neural probe. The team of Ahmad Allan, Hanady Bazzi and Omar Alali received third place for their autonomous robotic car capable of recognizing lanes, stop signs and traffic lights. Both teams represented the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

These and other promising projects were selected for a pitch competition during the Design Day event. Students were invited to give an oral presentation for a panel of judges comprised of successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, senior managers from various companies, and Wayne State faculty including Draghici and Gary Witus, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and associate director for student programs. Presenters were graded on technical quality, commercialization potential, and overall presentation quality.

"Design Day was an amazing opportunity to showcase my undergraduate research to my peers and mentors," said Azar. "I am proud of our accomplishments and I am thankful to the Anderson Institute for their sponsorship of Design Day and promoting innovation among Wayne State student engineers."

Summary of top projects:

First place (tie): Characterization of Electroactive Nanofibers for Nerve Regeneration

Development of a nerve gap conduit to promote functional recovery of severed nerves.

Student: Jean-Yves Azar

Advisor: Harini Sundararaghavan

First place (tie): Design of 3-dimensional Active Sites for Selective Catalysis

Modification of the 3-D environment of catalytic surfaces to maximize atom efficiency and stability while minimizing use of precious metals

Student: Laura Paz Herrera

Advisor: Eranda Nikolla

Second place: Titanium Nitride Nanotube Electrode

A corrosion-resistant implantable nanotube electrode that works as a neural probe and offers improved biocompatibility, reduced tissue damage, reduced cost and increased usability.

Students: Marcella Gatti, Gui Chen

Advisor: Mark Cheng

Third place: Autonomous RC Vehicle - a Machine Vision Demonstration

A robotic car with hardwire control, lane detection and path planning capabilities

Students: Ahmad Allan, Hanady Bazzi, Omar Alali

Advisor: Yang Zhao

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