Engineering Seniors Shine at EDIS
April 25, 2023
By Holly Hinson
Expediting the bourbon barrel aging process. Streamlining the access and user interface for an online scholarship application program. Using 3D printing to develop a protective capsule for chestnut tree seeds to aid in reforestation. Using smart sensor refrigerator techniques to ensure seniors are getting adequate nutritional intake. These innovative and cutting-edge projects were among the fifty-one presented by senior capstone students at the Spring 2023 Engineering Design and Innovation Showcase (EDIS) on April 20 at Angel’s Envy Club at Cardinal Stadium.
Two hundred twenty-five students worked on individual project teams throughout the semester, guided by professors, and collaborating with their industry project partners. They developed prototypes or solutions for real-world projects that involve design constraints, budgets, reviews and deadlines.
“Senior projects are extremely critical because it allows the seniors to have an experience with projects where they can put the knowledge they’ve gained through their curriculum into practice,” said Gary Osborne, capstone instructor and assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering. “We can teach them the design process and they are free to do their own design and free to make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes,” he said. “It’s a semester long team project where they have to share that experience and get the best out of that team.”
Projects were judged and awards presented for the five engineering disciplines that participated during the Fall Showcase: Chemical Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
“Capstone is a source of pride for Speed School, said Dean Collins. “As a community, we are developing world-class engineers who are well-prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow with competitive, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
This was the fourth bi-annual event for The Engineering Design and Innovation Showcase, held every spring and fall, and the event embodied a robust post-Covid attendance from senior capstone student teams, capstone instructors and other instructors and department chairs, industry partners, sponsors, judges, families and friends of Speed School students, and even a group visiting from Ballard High School.
Ballard teacher Tim Oltman said that he teaches an engineering pathway at the high school along with another teacher, and the juniors he brought to the showcase will be going into their own capstone class next year. “We can only teach so much in high school, so we don’t get to cover every engineering discipline so having our students seeing the diversity of the college projects and also seeing that they’re not so far off from what they’re doing,” he said. It helps them to realize, ‘Hey, I do belong someplace like this.”
The project “Bourbon Barrel Expedited Aging Process,” which included teammates Keaton Meyerratken, Julius Romer, Sophie Wegenast and Hunter West, captured first place in the Mechanical Engineering division for their project, which accelerates the aging process for bourbon barrel production, a signature Kentucky industry.
“The basis for this project was to come up with a way to age bourbon faster than it does in the natural industry process,” said Hunter West. “Bourbon ages naturally in barrels because of the daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations wherever barrels are stored,” he said. Those fluctuations cause the wood and steel in the barrel to flex and allow the bourbon to infiltrate the wood and get forced back out,” he explained.
“Our goal was to emulate that process but do it at a higher frequency to where theoretically you could get multiple days’ worth of aging in a single day,” said West.
Keaton Meyerratken said the biggest challenge was deciding what style of device they were going to make to be able to expedite the bourbon barrel aging process. “After brainstorming, we decided that the thermal approach was going to be most efficient from a practical standpoint because of being able to put it on multiple barrels at once, transferring it from barrel to barrel, as well as overall ease of use in power consumption in comparison to the other methods we discussed,” said Meyerratken.
“The end goal is we could make, for example a 12-year bourbon in ideally six years, so the end client could get that high quality aged bourbon that has that 12-year stamp but from the company side, they only have to provide six years of aging, thus being able to turn around product more quickly, and making some of those hard-to-get bottles more prevalent.”
Julius Romer said his biggest takeaway was “we got to experience what it feels like to work as a team, and experience what it might feel like in industry being on a project where we get to do research, and create a brand new product for something that we’re all interested in.”
Sophie Wegenast, who hopes to go into additive manufacturing after graduation, designed the 3D fixtures on the barrel. “I feel really great about our project,” she said. “We had our goal, which was to simulate the temperature cycles and we followed through, got all the data we needed and we confirmed that yes, our prototype does work.”
Another project featured at the Engineering and Design Innovation Showcase could potentially make a huge impact in the indigenous forests. The chemical engineering project, “The American Chestnut Reseeding Initiative,” was developed by team members Ashley Brooks, Kayla Buchignani, Emmanuel Chifu and Matt Franxman. The project goal was to devise a way to help restore the American Chestnut tree from the brink of extinction. Towards that end, the team designed a biodegradable protective capsule for the tree’s seed. Designed for a mass planting from the air, the capsule can withstand a fall of up to 100 feet and implant into the ground, facilitating safe growing conditions until the seed can survive without human intervention.
“The American Chestnut has been in decline for some time because of the Chinese blight that came in the 1900s,” explained Emmanuel Chifu. “Scientists are working on genetically modified seeds that are resistant to the fungi, and thanks to that technology, our project was in designing capsules that would protect the seeds when we drop them, and in three to five months, they’ll still be in good shape and they’ll grow,” he said.
Team member Ashley Brooks is also the vice-president of the Botanical Society at UofL. “These trees have been so important since pioneer days,” she said. “I was excited to do sustainability work and apply my engineering skills to something that I care about, especially with our current climate and the way the earth is developing right now,” said Brooks. “I am happy to make an impact and make a difference and see where that goes generations later,” she said.
Spring 2023 Winners
|Department & Awards
|Project Title & Team Members
|“Scale Up of an Exothermic Reaction Experiment”
|“Biopolymer Degradation Kinetics”
|“Water from Air”
|Computer Science & Engineering
|“OCCS: Dollars for Scholars”
|“Let’s Go Cargauex”
|Deloitte Innovation Award
|“Let’s Go Cargauex”
|Electrical & Computer Engineering
|“Smart Traffic Light”
|“Solar Powered Robotic Lawnmower”
|“Multilayer Flexible PCB Construction Using the Nexus System”
|C&I Engineering Material Efficiency Award
|“Smart Traffic Light”
|“Bourbon Barrel Expedited Aging Process”
|“Drop Testing Fixture for GE Appliances”
|“Turbidity Testing Device”
|West Point Engineers Leadership Award
|“Portable All-Purpose Bathroom Chair”