Tag Archives: class projects

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!

CAD Project: Green Machine

Quinn Mitchell

Quinn Mitchell,
Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 16 March 2018

Many engineering classes involve group projects designed to test the students’ understanding of the topics taught throughout the semester. This is the case for many of the classes that I am taking this semester.

Of these projects, one that I am particularly excited for is my CAD (ME 3510) project. This project involves modeling and analyzing an existing product. Once this is completed, each group is required to make at least five design improvements.

The most exciting part about the project is that we were given free rein in terms of choosing the product to redesign. My group decided to use this as an opportunity to analyze a favorite toy from our childhoods, the Green Machine.

Green Machine

In addition to being an interesting engineering challenge, this also gave us an excuse to purchase a Green Machine for ourselves. Once we finally received the Green Machine, we were able to spend an afternoon performing some “product testing.” Although this is the technical term, a more accurate description would be continuously crashing the tricycle.

By the end of the semester, we plan to have implemented enough design improvements to have a tricycle that is large and stable enough for teenagers and adults to use. This goal is somewhat selfish since we have a group-wide consensus that we all need our own improved Green Machines to race.

Computer Organization Class Final Project

Andrew Videmsek

Andrew Videmsek,
Junior, Electrical Engineering

Athens, OH 12 December 2016
At the end of last semester, I was assigned a final project in my Computer Organization class that was focused on designing and simulating an introductory MIPS processor. This was a very simplified version of a processor that is fairly similar to what is found in modern computers. This project took the information that we learned throughout the semester and applied it to a single problem.

Like most modern day research and development of computer hardware, we did not build the processor out of physical components, but simulated the hardware design on a computer. To do this, we used a HDL, or hardware description language, called Verilog. Verilog allows a designer to start at the lowest level, building the different types of basic gates out of transistors, and then use those basic components to continue building upward until a final design is reached.

Since this project was to encapsulate the entirety of the course, we had to start from the ground up replicating every component we learned that semester. In total we designed and tested over forty discrete components that when replicated and used to create the functions of the processor, created over 500 hardware components that were being simulated to run the processor.

When it was all said and done, and the 36-page report covering everything from the functions the processor was able to perform to the standardized input the processor must receive, it was easily one of my favorite projects of my college career. It was a project that challenged me to make sure everything I was doing was in an efficient and fault proof manner. It helped me see what I wanted to do when school was completed, and was another proof that I had chosen the correct major for myself.

Planning a Chik-fil-A for Athens

Joshua Igwe

Joshua Igwe,
Senior, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 27 November 2016

This semester in one of my ISE classes, Project Management, myself and a few other students decided to do a project studying what it would take to open a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Athens.

Project Management is a class required for all seniors to take in the fall before we begin our senior design project in the spring. Naturally our department wants us to understand how to manage a project from start to finish before we are given our final capstone project.

Chick-fil-A is my favorite fast-food restaurant and I’ve always wondered why we don’t have one in Athens. I figured it would be a fun thing to study in case I wanted to come back to Athens someday to be a franchise owner.

Soon after we began research we found that all that you truly need to open a Chick-fil-A franchise is $5,000 for franchising and a free year to manage the restaurant. The catch however is that Chick-Fil A accepts less than 0.1% of the applications they receive every year. This realization put a damper on my dream of opening a franchise in real life, but the work on the class project had just begun.

Through the planning of the rest of the project, we went through and picked out a location for the franchise, cost for renovations and supplies along with how we planned to staff the restaurant once opened. After gathering the information, planning each task and developing a report, we presented our findings to the class.

This process was helpful as we learned about opening a restaurant and managing a project from start to finish. I expect that this experience will be helpful when we begin working on our senior design project next semester.

Robot Building Project

Lucas Bond

Lucas Bond,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 23 October 2016

I am currently taking a class for my major called mechatronics (ME 4550). The class focuses on the combination of electronics, programming, and mechanical devices.

We were tasked to create a mechatronic device for an individual project that has all of these features and has some practical application. For my project I decided I wanted to build robot! I love star wars and so my mind quickly thought of BB-8. At first I thought it would be too complicated or hard for the project, but I went for it anyway.

I ordered all my parts a couple weeks ago and began construction as they came in the mail. I used a 10” hamster ball for the round shell and a 2-wheeled robot for the drive system. A servo is mounted to the bottom of the robot that will shift a weight back and forth leaning the sphere as the wheels drive forward or backward simultaneously. To make a weight heavy enough and the right size, I melted down a bunch of lead fishing sinkers and attached that to some K’NEX then glued that to the servo arm. I broke the first servo but I’ll get another one.

The bot will be controlled through an Arduino UNO microcontroller mounted to the center robot. The only physical simplification I made was to leave out the BB-8 head.

Mechatronic BB8

This project so far has been a ton of fun! I love building things and being hands on, so the construction phase has been a blast. It feels like something I could be doing just as a fun hobby project, yet this is for a class required for my major. I guess that means I chose the right program for myself.

I can’t wait to get the programming loaded up and see the little guy moving around. After graduation I think I will continue the project and possibly add remote control and some feedback control through motion sensors.

Creating a Motion-Sensing Alarm Clock

Adam Robertson

Adam Robertson,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 24 February 2016

With Spring Break ahead and midterms behind, it’s now time to relax and finish up some of this semester’s projects. This semester I am taking a class called Mechatronics. This class is by far one of the most interesting and fun classes I have taken in college.

Each student must use an Arduino microcontroller to make some sort of device that completes a task. Since I have been hitting the snooze button in the morning too much recently, I decided to make a motion sensor alarm clock that will not stop buzzing until I walk out of my room.

After project proposals have been completed, we are paired up with a student from the ETM Department who is enrolled in a different class. Their role is to fabricate parts needed for the design using a 3-D printer.

For my alarm clock I will need a housing that is large enough to fit my circuit, microcontroller, and battery pack. I will also need it to have an opening so my motion sensor is able to detect whether or not I am walking out of my room.

In the class, there are a lot of different things that people are designing. Other projects include remote control cars, automatic pet feeders, and even a pneumatic Nerf gun!

I am really looking forward to see everyone’s project when they are completed. This is going to be a challenging and exciting project that will top off my senior year perfectly.

Leadership Biography

Esteban Rodriguez

Esteban Rodriguez,
Senior, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 15 December 2015

This past semester I took a very special class that is offered only to a select group of engineering students: the Robe Leadership Institute. It was based on developing our leadership skills and also to get to know some of our most successful alumni. We had speakers once or twice a week and we would learn from their experiences of being leaders in the professional world.

On top of that, we had projects such as writing a leadership biography of our favorite leader. For this particular project I decided to write about Juan Manuel Santos, the current President of my country, Colombia.

This project consisted of doing in-depth research on this leader and it was broken down into 3 different parts. The first part included an introduction of the project and the leader, and also a historical overview of all the events that were important in our leader’s life.

The second part was dedicated to our leader’s leadership style and special traits that helped him become successful. This part was very important in order to understand the methodology of this person.

Finally, the third part was a connection between us and the leader–how we could apply his traits and styles to our particular situations.

This project required a lot of time, but I learned a lot from it since it made me understand the most important person in my country to a great extent. In addition, I could comprehend some of the most relevant historical events that make our country what it is today. Finally, I would say that this class has been the one that has prepared me the most for the professional world.