Tag Archives: engineering classes

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.


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.
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.

Advanced Materials with Dr. Marc Singer

Daniel Riordan

Daniel Riordan,
Senior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 26 February 2018

When you’re talking with someone about a topic you’re both excited about—whether it’s how the Cleveland Cav’s roster has been shaken up with all the trades going on, or what’s going to happen next in the new season of Westworld—you need both a good degree of background knowledge to be able to chat about the finer details.

The same goes for one of my favorite topics I get to study in chemical engineering at OU: materials. Now that I am a senior and have learned a lot of the basics about materials and how they work, I’m able to enroll in a course offered at Ohio University that covers all the fun and interesting topics in materials science in a more conversational, casual setting. It’s called Advanced Topics in Materials Science and Engineering, taught by metallic corrosion researcher Dr. Marc Singer, and the format is way more casual than a typical engineering course. I mean, look at him.

Dr. Marc Singer

This is a man who knows his stuff about materials and knows how to keep it fresh. We cover topics such as the electrical, thermal, and optical properties of materials at a fast pace, but because the exams are low-stress and the topics are interesting, it’s easy for me to relax and just enjoy it.

We’re talking about n- and p-type semiconductors now and why they’re so important in modern-day computing applications, and it’s been cool to learn from the experts how and why the things around us are made of the materials they’re made of.

Chemical Engineering Academics

Veronica Ammer

Veronica Ammer,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 18 February 2018

I’ve heard it said that sophomore year second semester of chemical engineering is the hardest semester. I’ve also heard it said that junior year first semester is the hardest semester. Okay, it’s second semester junior year that is the hardest, and so on and so forth. This is because each semester my dad tells me it’s the hardest one.

I think I understand his parenting logic, to get me to be ever vigilant in my studies and take every class seriously. I remember being annoyed during my sophomore year, but now I appreciate what he said to me. He got me in the mindset to tackle each semester one at a time, not dwelling on past semesters, or worrying about future ones.

However, this semester might actually be the hardest semester in chemical engineering, at least for me. That being said, I have never been more excited about engineering than I am right now. While I enjoyed my calculus and chemistry courses over the past two years, my true passion lies in my engineering classes this semester.

My chemical reaction engineering class takes me inside a reactor where molecular bonds are breaking and reforming. I am learning the intricacies of sizing and choosing what type of reactor will best fit my future company’s needs. In my advanced materials course, I can delve deeper into what makes steel so tough and how to choose the optimal characteristics of a material.

Overall, my classes this semester are some of the most engaging I’ve had during my time here at OU. I am beginning to scratch the surface of what my future career could be like, and I am thrilled about that. I am solving problems that, though textbook, have real engineering applications and challenge me to be creative and apply what I know. These classes are tough. None of them are easy, but I’ve heard junior year second semester is the hardest semester and I only have a few more to go.

Independent Study

Quinn Mitchell

Quinn Mitchell,
Junior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 12 February 2018

Although I am taking lots of interesting classes this semester, the one I am most excited for is my independent study with Dr. Sarah Hormozi. An independent study is a class made for a student, or small group of students, to investigate a specific topic under the supervision of a professor.

I am so excited for this class because I had the opportunity to help design the curriculum. I have taken this opportunity to make a class that will be extremely beneficial to my development as an engineer. By the end of the semester, I will have developed many skills that I will need moving forward in my career.

Dr. Hormozi is involved in the study of non-Newtonian fluids, which is also one of my areas of interest. Consequently, the topic of our independent study is the flow of elastoviscoplastic fluids through porous media. The main objective for the semester will be to design and run a numerical simulation to relate pressure drop to flow rate for elastoviscoplastic flow in porous media.

To do this, we are collaborating with a group of researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. This project will give me the opportunity to learn a series of extremely valuable skills including computational fluid dynamics, parallel processing, supercomputing, and programming in Fortran. I will also have the opportunity to meet engineers who are involved in the type of research that I plan to pursue in graduate school.


Matt McKenzie

Matt McKenzie,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 9 December 2017

Mechatronics is a class for mechanical engineering seniors that ties together everything that has been learned in their electrical engineering, controls, and programming courses. To round out the class, there is a group project, which for my class, was to create robots to follow a line of electrical tape laid out on the floor, as well as stopping before touching any object in its path, and identifying the color of that object. Throughout this process there were many challenges that were encountered, but some certainly stood out.

The greatest problem that was encountered in this project was actually one that was never solved. In order to complete all the tasks, we were using pre-manufactured sensors for both the line-following and color-identification tasks. Using the Arduino platform, these interface to the inter-integrated circuit (I2C) connections on the board. As we broke down the project into small pieces, everything worked well as a standalone subsystem, but when we went to connect everything together as a larger system, only one of these two sensors would work at any given time.

After countless hours of troubleshooting ourselves, the assistance of the TA and professor also was futile. What was most baffling was that no other teams had any issues with their sensors. In the end, the team ran out of time trying to hunt for the cause of the issue and came up with a roundabout solution to the problem. In the end, the robot performed as it needed to and completed the entire course with no further issues but it just goes to show, anything can happen and sometimes you have to come up with unique solutions that are outside of the box.

Aviation Crew Resource Management

Gareth Bussa

Gareth Bussa,
Junior, Aviation

Athens, OH 27 November 2018

During this semester, our department is trying out a new class. This class is a hands-on experience with another peer in the simulator. The class is called CRM (Crew Resource Management).

CRM is a vital component in today’s aviation industry. Any time you step into the cockpit of an airplane, you will have another crew member aboard. With CRM, aviation has seen a major decrease in aviation accidents.

As a crew, you perform duties together while sitting in a cockpit. You do checklists together, brief what you’ll be flying, how you’re going to fly routes and other necessities during a flight. This class teaches you everything to know in a CRM environment. Yes, it does not have the exact procedures as airlines or cockpits of a jet, but it does have procedures that are close to what you actually do in the real world.

These procedures and actions are key to safety of the crew and passengers aboard the aircraft. The CRM class contains the pilot flying, the pilot monitoring, as well as the professor in the back giving us scenarios in the actual simulator.

Most of the scenarios in the sim won’t happen in the actual aircraft. The professor likes to throw multiple failures at us at a time to see if we can handle the stress of dealing with failures in critical phases of flight. Whenever I talk about critical phases of flight, I mean takeoffs, landings and as well as cruise. These three areas are where you have the most accidents in an aircraft.

This class helps us prepare to be ready in the actual need of a failure. For instance, if an engine fails on a multi-engine aircraft, I know what procedures I need to do to keep the aircraft flying. While I know these by memory, I always verify what I am doing with the other person in the cockpit as well as checklists.

This class helps me prepare for the real world environment and I have learned a whole lot just from one semester. Coming out of this, I know what to expect when actually stepping into an aircraft for the airlines.