ME Capstone: Recycling Collection

Matt McKenzie

Matt McKenzie,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 13 April 2018

Capstone design for mechanical engineering is a year-long course where a small group of seniors are assigned a client and work together through the engineering process from problem identification to delivering a prototype.

For my capstone project, I have been paired with a local non-profit called Rural Action Zero Waste Initiative, RA ZWI for short.RA ZWI works to divert waste from landfills by cleaning up after local festivals and sorting the trash to send it to its appropriate recycling or compost location.

The problem that my team is looking to solve is to collect a large majority of what they call bulk trash—plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and other waste—in a time period of around 30 minutes. They are having a problem cleaning around the stage area effectively in the short amount of time between the end of the show and when heavy equipment comes in to break down the stage. When this equipment comes in, it tears up the ground and compacts any remaining trash into making it much more difficult to collect.

The client has tried to use some off the shelf solutions before in ways that they were not designed to operate which proved somewhat effective, but nowhere near durable enough and constantly breaking. To solve the issue at hand, and continue the trend of recycling, my team has decided to use a leaf sweeper housing and hopper that RA ZWI has utilized in the past with some effectiveness, but we have designed in a number of improvements to solve the issues and make it more reliable.

After some initial rapid prototyping, we were able to pitch the design to our faculty mentor and our client and are currently rounding out the manufacturing of our prototype. Following the prototype being completed, we will have a number of tests to conduct and make any adjustments to the design to improve its collection efficiency before delivering it to the client and putting it through its paces with them in the coming weeks.

ME Senior Design

Emily Morello

Emily Morello,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 8 April 2018

The main class of senior year for mechanical engineers is senior design. Senior design is a year long class, which is very different from most other engineering disciplines. In the beginning of the fall semester, students were placed on teams based on their areas of interest in engineering. The teams were also made based on student’s strengths and weaknesses to make the teams balanced.

Each team is then assigned a customer with a problem that needs to be solved. The teams work with their customer for the entire year until they solve the problem. Every customer is very different and has a unique problem that needs solved.

My project for senior design is extremely different than most students’. Our customer is a lecturer at Ohio University, Dr. Burnette, and our project is to create a medical device that treats cervical dysplasia with a plasma.

The reason this device is so important is because the current procedure to treat cervical cancer is extremely invasive and can leave the woman infertile in some cases. The idea of using a plasma to treat cancerous cells is that it will kill the bad cells without causing harm to the healthy cells.

At first, it was hard to start our project because we had such a large scope. My team had to do extensive research to learn about the female reproductive system, and it took a lot of thinking to design a device that is safe for procedures. We ended up narrowing our scope from a procedure to an experiment so we can use the device we are designing as a learning tool to answer questions we have and improve the device in the future.

My team has come a long way this year. I can proudly say we have a working prototype that we are going to show at the Ohio University Expo this upcoming Thursday, April 12th . The week after the expo we have senior design demo day which wraps up our senior design experience.

I am very thankful for the project I was assigned because I learned a lot. Senior Design definitely made me use all of my engineering knowledge I learned from college in one class.

All Roads Lead to Rome

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 April 2018

For my second blog post of Spring semester, I decided to write about the differences in education system between my home country (the Netherlands) and the United States of America. It will be hard to emphasize those differences because some of the names and levels of education are not translatable. However, I hope this post will serve as a resource for High School students as well as OU students who are looking into a semester abroad.

Studying abroad has been the best decision in my life so far, which I hope everyone could experience! It widens your horizon. Studying abroad opened my eyes to several cultures and made it easier to communicate with people having different backgrounds. In school as well as in the work field, you will encounter people who have distinct believes and were raised in various parts of the world. In globalized times like this, I believe it is very important to understand those differences and respect one another.

That being said, I will try my best to explain the differences in education system that I experienced thus far. For example, at home we start off with kindergarten at the age of two up till four. When a child turns four, he or she goes to primary school (“basisschool”) up till twelve (grade 1-grade 8). At home, private schools are uncommon so most kids go to a local, public primary school at a walking distance of 5-10 minutes (yes my country is small, haha). 90% Of the Dutch elementary schools are part of the government and use the same teaching style around the same level of education.

When a primary school student reaches the age of 11 (grade 7), he or she is required to take a standardized test similar to the American SATs: “The Central End Test for Primary Education” (“CITO”). The results of this test in combination with another standardized test the following year (grade 8), determine what level of high school the student should do. Levels are directly related to above average, average, or below average test scores and the years one will be enrolled in high school (4, 5, or 6 years).

This test is also an important part of the decision to what high school one
would like to go since not all schools offer all different levels. The levels of high school are split up in three main levels:


  • 6 years of VWO (pre-university and
    research focused)

  • 5 years of HAVO (general second education, still provides entrance to university)

  • 4 years of VMBO (more technical, highest VMBO can continue to HAVO after graduation)


These first and third levels can be further divided into VWO-TTO (education in English), VWO-Gymnasium (focused on Greek, Latin and classical antiquity), VWO-Atheneum (basic), VMBO-T (entrance to HAVO), VMBO-basis, and VMBO-kader. The last two are focused on practical and technical education known as “technical schools” in the USA.

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In our last year of high scool (“senior year”) we do a trip abroad with our class. I graduated high school with a VWO-Gymnasium degree, so we got to travel to Rome and experience all the ancient structures and art pieces we were taught about during our 6 years of high school!

ALT

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Because of my Dutch high school degree and experience, the transition to a(n American) university was made a little easier than expected. Thus, use your opportunities to explore the world and become a sophisticated student creating for good!

Meaningful Projects in Industrial and Systems Engineering: More Than Just Homework

Cami Jones

Cami Jones,
Senior, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 30 March 2018

Consider this post a public “thank you” to the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department – specifically those professors who have taken the time to create meaningful work for us.

Perhaps somewhat oddly, I’d like to start out by admitting that I’ve been known to say that I can’t wait to get out into the “real world” and start working on projects that matter and that will actually have an impact on the world around me. (AKA, it would be nice if I felt that all the time and energy I put into my homework was actually worth something!) I’ve started to realize though that saying this does a great disservice to some of the very meaningful projects I’ve been challenged by my professors to complete over the past five years.

In an effort to right the wrongs of my complaining, I hope that you’ll enjoy reading about some of my favorite assignments below. I hope that you’ll also realize much earlier than I did that there is opportunity to impact people and communities even through homework and class assignments.

West 82 Check-Out Process Improvement (ISE 3340: Work Design)
Some of the main concepts covered in Work Design are time studies, analysis of work processes, and balancing workloads for operators.

West 82 is a quick-service dining option at Baker Student Center on campus which is known to experience periods of high demand around lunch time on weekdays. During these periods of high demand, excessive queuing can become a problem and cause lengthy check-out times that make it difficult for students to get their food and then head out to class on time.

West 82

Our project was to observe and assess the check-out process with the end goal of providing recommendations to West 82 management to improve the flow of customers through queues during peak hours. This was my first experience completing a time study, identifying and working with stakeholders of an operation, and presenting results to a real client. Looking back, this project was probably the best preparation I had for my internship at Disney doing very similar studies!

Analysis of FEMA Performance (ISE 4930: Humanitarian Logistics)
Humanitarian Logistics is a course that exposes students to the notion that responses to natural and man-made disasters are both similar and different to commercial logistics activities. As such, it is possible to model these responses and to optimize them like businesses optimize the performance of their logistics networks (with a few key distinctions). These optimization models and their results can then be used to influence public policy concerning future responses.

FEMA
FEMA

For this course, each student selected a topic related to humanitarian logistics to research for the semester with the goal of “adding something” to the field. I chose to analyze the performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from its inception to the present and make recommendations on how the organization could improve moving forward. By the end of the course, I had completed my first research report that (with extra help and polishing) has the potential to be published in a scholarly journal and actually – maybe – impact this policies governing FEMA in the future!

Alden Library Automation (ISE 4311: Applied Systems Engineering)
Applied Systems Engineering is a course that discusses the importance of thoughtfully planning a system based on specific design requirements. The course stresses the importance of identifying and working with key stakeholders, obtaining specific design criteria, understanding the potential impacts of a project on a variety environmental factors, considering and planning for a system’s lifecycle, and meeting critical milestones.

Our team project was working with Alden Library and the Engineering Librarian to improve their operations through automation. In an age where the internet seems to have all the answers and printed text seems “old school”, the library is trying to add value by way of expertise to stay relevant to the community. To do this effectively, they need more time to do “value-added” tasks!

Library Current and Future State

A main goal of this project was to decrease the amount of time that library staff spent doing mundane tasks (like checking-in books and reshelving them) so that they would be free to do more interesting and meaningful work like helping students. We met with our stakeholders, observed the check-in and reshelving processes, interviewed staff, and eventually recommended both short-term and long-term options to improve the process. We then presented our recommendations to our client for their consideration.

Library Recommendations

As a side note, you may think that automation equipment is unnecessary in a library—or even that it is unrealistic! To be honest, I felt the same way until we dug into this project. What actually convinced me that it was viable was a chance encounter with the Greene County Public Library (in my hometown) where they had just installed automation equipment for the purposes described above. It was amazing and incredibly timely to see their equipment in action. While I couldn’t find a video from our library, this
system at the Hancock County Public Library
is almost identical.

Understanding Human Trafficking as a Supply Chain to Identify Methods of High-Impact Disruption (ISE 4325: Supply Chain Engineering)
Supply Chain Engineering is a course about designing effective supply chains and learning about various techniques to optimize the design of these networks to fit with the strategy of a business.
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I am currently taking this class, and our semester project allowed us to select a topic related to supply chain engineering to research in detail and find a way to “add to” the field (much like the project in Humanitarian Logistics…likely because the courses are taught by the same professor!). My partner and I decided to look into how illicit human trafficking could be mapped onto a supply chain framework. It’s definitely a heavy topic to study, but the implications of understanding how illicit supply chains like those of human trafficking and drug trafficking are organized are key to breaking them down.

The action of intercepting and preventing the movement of a prohibited commodity or person is called “interdiction” and is actually a sub-field of supply chain research. Normally in supply chain engineering, the goal is to optimize the performance of a given network. In interdiction, the goal is to identify the most critical links in a supply chain in order to take high-impact action against them and eventually cripple the supply chain.



So there you have it—just a few of my favorites! And of course, a big thank you to our ISE department and professors for some great project experiences!

The Road to Job Acceptance: Personal Experience and Tips from an Engineering Undergraduate

Cami Jones

Cami Jones,
Senior, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 26 March 2018

Now that I’ve finally found and accepted a full-time job, it seems like an appropriate time to write about the process of actually finding a job. For all of you metrics people out there, here’s a quick “by the numbers” about my full-time job search.


  • 16 companies

  • 11 distinct resumes (includes revised versions & job-specific modifications)

  • 27 online applications

  • 4 candidate pre-screening “intelligence”/ “ethics” tests

  • 8 first-round interviews

  • 5 second-round interviews

  • 4 final interviews

  • 4 job offers

  • 20+ hours of driving to/from interviews

  • 7 automatic rejections

  • 12 applications still “pending”


I don’t know how it reads, but it sure did feel exhausting! And I was fortunate—I know some of my friends have applied to 100+ jobs online and are only just beginning to get interviews. For what it’s worth, I’ve compiled my own list of top 3 full-time job search tips below.

Students and parents alike, please note the following: online job searching is HARD even for well-qualified students. I believe that it’s imperative to “play the game” in a smart way to make the most of efforts made applying to jobs…otherwise it’s easy to get discouraged! It is my hope that the tips below will help serve as an introductory guide to “playing smart”.

Cami’s Top 3 Full-Time Engineering Job Search Tips:
1. Know yourself. It’s important to know your skills/interests AND weaknesses/dislikes when searching for and applying to jobs. Trust me, it’s no use to anyone if you apply to a job that you’re unqualified to perform or that you will be unhappy doing. Look for jobs that both appeal to your interests and require skills that you feel confident you have. It’s a plus if you actually
have prior experience using these skills from an internship or co-op!

Avoid applying for jobs that sound boring or require too many skills you don’t possess. At the end of the day, if you get an interview for a job you want to be excited (not reluctant to “have to” interview) and you want to feel ready to knock it out of the park – not worry that they will discover you’re unqualified!

2. Know the system. The truth is that if you’re applying for jobs online, it is highly unlikely that a human will be the first to view your resume. These days, there are sneaky Human Resources (HR) software tools called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that will “read” your resume and spit out a summary for the HR manager before anyone will see it. This summary needs to match the specific job description for you to get a call to interview…or to even get a real person to
review your qualifications!

If you’ve heard that you should make your resume “visually appealing” that’s still true if you are handing it out (or emailing it) to prospective employers. However, the formatting that makes your resume appealing may be a big reason that the ATS will reject your application! Many of these ATS systems cannot process documents with sophisticated formatting and therefore will not be able to read/summarize much of your content. AKA: even if you are perfectly qualified, you won’t get a call to interview!

Be SURE to create and use a plain text (unformatted) version of your resume to be submitted online. A helpful resource for creating a resume that both an
ATS and human can easily read can be found here (in step 2).

Once I started following these ATS guidelines, I started getting calls to interview. Before I used these techniques—crickets. I highly recommend doing your own research about ATS!

3. Use your network. If someone you know has connections to a job that you are interested in, reach out to them! From a company’s perspective, if someone who already works for them recommends someone for a job, it shows that the person is already trusted at some level. This takes some pressure off of the HR folks looking to hire for a position.

From your perspective, in many cases you can skip that pesky online application (and ATS scan) and have your resume placed in the hands of someone in HR who might actually read it! Again, if someone is willing to help you with this—take them up on it. In all transparency, this is how I got my foot in the door for three of my five internships and even the full-time position I accepted!

At Ohio University, we have a number of networking opportunities. The best, in my opinion, is building relationships with older students and alumni while still in school. Building up a good reputation with those entering the workforce before you for being a hard worker and someone who is easy to talk to can go a long way in obtaining your “dream job” later on!

Again, this is how I heard about the full-time job I accepted. An alumnus from our ISE department reached out through one of our professors to see if anyone was interested in working for Akron Children’s Hospital as an Operational Excellence Analytics Specialist and I jumped on the opportunity to send my resume her way! She sent my resume to her boss, and I had an interview set up a few days later. The rest is history.

Best of luck in your future (or current) job search!

Spring Break Trip to Slovenia

Veronica Ammer

Veronica Ammer,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 21 March 2018

In early January, my Spring break plans were the same as every year preceding: I was going home to see my cat. By the third week of the semester, I had a plane ticket to go on a cultural exchange to Ljubljana, Slovenia (the first j is silent and the second j reads like a y).

Slovenia

I’m not sure if it was the beautiful architecture, the fresh, flaky croissants or the unbelievably blue Adriatic Sea, but in just one week I fell whole-heartedly in love with Slovenia.

There were students from both Cru at OU and RealLife at OSU on the cultural exchange. We partnered with an organization called Speak Out Slovenia, which works with high school students to practice English speaking through meaningful, relevant conversation with Americans. A lot of our time was spent in classrooms, giving a short presentation and quiz about school in the US, answering any questions, and learning about Slovene culture.

The quiz tested the Slovene high school students’ knowledge of American high school jargon like senioritis, dance chaperone and senior superlative. The Slovene students taught us (the Americans) about their college entrance exam, the Matura, and flaunted that detention does not exist in Slovenia, among many other things.

During that week, we (the Americans) were divided into groups and met at three different high schools. The school I went to was called Gimnazija Šentvid. One of the major differences between American and Slovene high schools is when it comes to sports. Unlike in America, Slovene sports clubs are not affiliated with a high school or district. However, there are schools like Gimnazija Šentvid that offer classes for student athletes where they can train and condition during their school day.

Another big difference is that in Slovene high school a student stays with the same group of people throughout their day class to class with few exceptions except during senior year. This is very different from how American high schools operate where we have our own individualized schedules.

In addition to speaking with English class students in the schools, we also had after-school activities. On Wednesday, all the teachers in Ljubljana went on strike, so we took a day trip with at least thirty Slovene students to Piran, a coast town on the Adriatic Sea. We were split into groups with both Slovenes and Americans and sent on a photo scavenger hunt to see all the sights the lovely town had to offer.

Slovenia

Piran was my personal favorite. Looking out across the sea, in one direction I saw Italy and in the other Croatia. We climbed to the highest point in the town, where we could look out at the point and snap a picture of the terracotta rooftops and breathtaking horizon.

Our last day in Slovenia was spent at Lake Bled. The lake was nestled majestically in the frosted mountains. From a castle that loomed over the lake to the small island church located in the middle of the lake, it was like something out of a fairy tale.

Slovenia

We hiked higher and higher to take the best pictures and to try to capture the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Lake Bled was also a prized destination thanks to its authentic dessert shop that supposedly has the best kremsnita (cream cake) in Slovenia.

Slovenia

Overall, there was a lot to love about Slovenia. I hope I have the opportunity to go back and visit this beautiful country and the friends I made through Speak Out. This trip had a tremendous impact on me through immersive learning about another culture. Even though it was a break from class, it definitely was not a break from learning. However, when you are gazing across the Adriatic or enjoying a delectable croissant, it’s not so bad.

Spring Break in Nashville

Mollie Whitacre

Mollie Whitacre,
Senior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 18 March 2018

This past week was our spring break and I got the privilege of visiting my sister in Nashville for a couple days! It is, by far, my favorite city and I would love to live there one day.

When I arrived, we visited Broadway street for the night. Broadway Street is filled with giant bars and plenty of great country music. My favorite thing is walking down the street and listening to loud, live bands every five feet because each and every bar has live country music every night. How can you not love that?

We did some more sight-seeing over the next few days by visiting Centennial Park where the Parthenon is located and visiting the Gaylord Opryland.

Parthenon

The Parthenon is an exact replica of the original Parthenon located in Greece. This thing is massive. We got some cool pictures there looking like ants next to this structure.

The Opryland is a resort and convention center, but mainly a tourist attraction. They have three indoor “rooms” with shops inside them. I say inside with quotes because each room has either a river or pond in it with beautiful scenery everywhere. We loved watching a dancing fountain in one of the areas. My trip was amazing and I can’t wait to visit again!