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It’s easy to find teams of engineering students working together at Carnegie Mellon. Whether it’s for a project-based course, a short-term challenge, or just for their own interests, students have the tools, space, and funds at CMU to make it happen. The only thing they need to pick on their own? Ideas.

Two events where many students showcase their projects at once are the Mechanical Engineering (MechE) Design Expo and Build18, named for the course number prefix for the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE). Held at the end of the fall semester and the beginning of the spring semester respectively, these showcases of student ingenuity feature projects from the college’s two largest departments.

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This year, students in the graduate course 24-686 Advanced Mechanical Design were prompted to “make something that I can’t find on Google” by MechE Associate Professor Rahul Panat. Undergraduates in 24-441 Engineering Design II: Conceptualization & Realization taught by MechE Assistant Professor Kate Whitefoot had the whole semester to go through the design process in its entirety. And for students optionally participating in Build18, the two limitations they had were a $250 budget and time—just a week to put together their prototypes when they returned to campus from winter break.

Kitchen ingenuity

One theme that was popular among Advanced Mechanical Design students was something that anyone can relate to: food. Everyone eats, and everyone wants the process of cooking and preparing food to be easy and fun. Mechanical and electrical additions keep the whimsy in the kitchen without as much of the hassle.

Disability assistance

Multiple teams in the Conceptualization & Realization course and Build18 chose to use their engineering knowledge to make improvements to devices that assist with impairments and difficult physical activity. Since the Conceptualization & Realization students had a whole semester, they were even able to test their projects with individuals who actually use similar devices regularly.

Physical activity

A handful of student teams at both events focused on improving equipment used for physical activity and mobility. By making enhancements to pre-existing equipment, students were able to improve them for safety, for mental engagement, and even for artistic expression.

Gaming and visualization

Build18 often has a strong showing of video games, visualizers, and virtual reality experiences. This year was no exception. Since devices like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Kinect are cheap enough for teams to afford with their $250 standard Build18 budget, they are able to produce a wide variety of fun activities.

These projects were appreciated by all the Build18 visitors, but especially by local high school students attending for day trips. These younger students were able to learn from undergraduate and graduate students about their designs, hopefully piquing the interests of more than a few young minds.

Additional innovations

At Build18 and the MechE Design Expo, there is always a wide variety of projects. Students participating in Build18 can pick any project to tinker on. While there are more requirements for mechanical design courses based on the curriculum, students still manage to put forth an assortment of projects, varying from fun and whimsical to useful and innovative.

You can see more photos of Build18 projects and the awards ceremony on the ECE department’s Flickr Page, and you can learn more about ECE’s Build18 event at their website.

You can also watch more in-depth interviews with student teams from the Advanced Mechanical Design course.