SDSU College of Engineering students showcased inventive projects at Senior Design Day

From lunar agriculture and improved glucose monitoring devices, to wildfire prevention technology, SDSU engineering graduates are eager to improve the world.

SDSU engineering students and their professor pose for a photograph during Senior Design Day at Viejas Arena.
Students of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, featuring mentor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Scott Shaffar (center). (Photo by SDSU)

San Diego State University College of Engineering seniors are prepared to envision, design, and build a better world. 

During the 2024 Senior Design Day, held May 1 at Viejas Arena, senior design teams presented innovative engineering projects to upwards of 2,300 attendees.

In the intensive, two-semester Senior Design Course, students collaborate as an engineering team to identify and solve real-world problems, from conception to implementation.

With support from sponsors, mentors, advisors, and faculty, the students put their technical knowledge, communication, and collaborative skills into practice. 

The students showcased various projects from growing plants on the moon and designing non-invasive health monitoring sensors to developing power line wrapping technology to prevent wildfires.

“Many [students and alumni] have shared how their Senior Design Capstone experience was their most challenging and yet the most rewarding experience during their undergraduate studies and in some cases, no less than life changing,” said Professor of Mechanical Engineering Scott Shaffar

Here is a closer look at some of the inventive projects:

Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering

Team Wrap Tech pose for a photo with mentor and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Saeed Manshadi.Open the image full screen.
Team Wrap Tech with mentor and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Saeed Manshadi (center). (Taylor Slane/SDSU)

Wrap Tech
Team Members: Jonathan Arabo, Andrew Deguzman, Brad Leroy Dela Llana, Tuong Do, Audrey Meador, Victor Reyes, Richard Rosengren, Brendon Swierczewski, Mario Velez
Mentors: Scott Shaffar, Saeed Manshadi, Zahra Nili Ahmadabadi (SDSU)
Sponsor: SDSU Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering

Power lines overheat and expand during periods of extreme heat and high usage, causing them to sag and sometimes make contact with trees and bushes. These factors have ignited some of California’s worst wildfires in recent years. 

Mechanical engineering students teamed up with electrical and computer engineering students to design a robot that propels itself along power lines, removing dangerous sags. The remotely operated robot could wrap many miles of line in areas that are difficult for line workers to reach.

“What we have done is created this robot that simultaneously balances on the power line, moves forward, and wraps carbon fiber straps all around the line,” said team leader and mechanical engineering major Audrey Meador

For Meador, the work hits close to home. Her Ventura County high school shut down for two months when the massive Thomas fire — sparked by a power line explosion in 2017 — ripped through the area, becoming one of the most devastating wildfires in California history. 

“What we're doing is essentially preventing these wildfires by reinforcing the power line and really getting to the root cause of this issue,” she added.

Mechanical Engineering 

Team Members: Kevin Degeatano, Marco Gutierrez, Dylan Kuta, Selena Nguyen
Mentors: Eric Harper (Dexcom) and Scott Shaffar (SDSU)
Sponsor: Dexcom

San Diego-based Dexcom, Inc. tasked SDSU engineers with improving quality checks for the deployment of needles in their continuous glucose monitor devices. Currently, employees check each device manually, with fatigue and repetition potentially leading to injury and errors.

Through iterations of design and testing, a team of SDSU mechanical engineering students created an air-powered, enclosed two-switch system that consistently punctures a skin-like material deep enough to measure diabetic patients’ blood sugar levels.

“This will be in their lab, hopefully, used thousands of times. That’s the goal,” said Dylan Kuta, a mechanical engineering student who has already worked in industry for several years.

Kuta said his biggest takeaway was becoming a better leader.

“The last nine months, it’s been a struggle at times, but it’s been fun, you know, learning how to deal with that human dynamic and getting everyone to work together and cooperate efficiently and create a product that we’re all proud to showcase.”

Aerospace Engineering

Lunar Agricultural Test Vehicle (LATV)
Team Members: Brandon Barr, Daniel Black, Jack Caron, Nicholas Fischetti, Antonio Garcia, Donte King, Kyle Kline, Shotaro Kusunoki, Ted Seanger, James Schultz, Trevor Taylor
Mentor: Dr. Pablo Machuca, SDSU

For humans to survive on Mars, they need a way to produce food on the planet. Turning the extraterrestrial agriculture described in Andy Weir’s science fiction novel “The Martian” into reality first requires feasibility testing on the moon.

The Lunar Agricultural Test Vehicle team of aerospace engineers simulated multiple aspects of landing safely on the moon, collecting lunar soil and growing plants within an enclosed, pressurized habitat.

Beyond calculating a possible flight path, landing plan, deployment for the spacecraft and data transfer architecture, the team consulted with SDSU biologists about the penetrability of lunar soil and the best chemicals to add to optimize fertilization.

James (Titus) Schultz said he could not imagine having an engineering education without a senior project because it offered the chance to apply what he had learned throughout his time at SDSU.

“We all learned a ton about what we were required to do, we all got really good at coding, simulation use, structural design,” said Schultz. “I definitely feel, after this course, a lot more confidence in understanding what industry-level analysis means.”

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Kevin Tran shows his team's Artificial Intelligence chessboard to SDSU President de la Torre, Interim Provost Dr. William Tong, VP of Research and Innovation Hala Madanat and Dean Eugene Olevsky. Open the image full screen.
Kevin Tran shows AI chessboard to President de la Torre, Interim Provost Dr. William Tong, VP of Research and Innovation Hala Madanat and Dean Eugene Olevsky. (Taylor Slane/SDSU)

Team C.H.E.S.S.
Team members: Jacob Anderson, Kevin Tran, Christopher Gonzalez, Noor Jazrawi, Josue Rodriguez
Mentors: Barry Dorr, Mark Bruno (SDSU)
Sponsor: SDSU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Computers have been capable of besting humans at chess since IBM’s Deep Blue beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But AI can also help players improve their game. 

The electrical and computer engineering students on Team C.H.E.S.S. designed a full-size competitive chessboard that analyzes a player’s every move and guides them toward the best possible next move with LED lights.

“Lots of studies show that learning by example is a way people learn efficiently and effectively,” said team leader Jacob Anderson, who added the strategy is also employed regularly in engineering classrooms. 

His teammate, Kevin Tran, was the brains behind the AI. 

“We wanted the AI software to detect what’s on board and make a decision about the best possible move,” said Tran.

Anderson said while his engineering classes during the past four years at SDSU prepared him with the technical knowledge he will need to excel in the field, the capstone project helped him learn to work with a team in a specific context, testing his abilities to communicate with people who have various skill sets. 

Computer engineering student Jacob Flaxman answers questions about the Trunk Tech elephant tracking device at Senior Design Day. (Susanne Clara Bard/SDSU)Open the image full screen.
Computer engineering student Jacob Flaxman answers questions about the Trunk Tech elephant tracking device at Senior Design Day. (Susanne Clara Bard/SDSU)

Trunk Tech
Team Members: Courtney Chase, Alexander Cherry, Jacob Flaxman, Rachel Gerrard, Ryan Kiok, Connor Martorana, Roberto Montano Bermudez, Eduardo Tovar, Anthony Vasquez
Advisors: Katie Garwood, Ian Ingram, and Kyra Swanson, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; Dr. Scott Shaffar and Barry Dorr, SDSU
Sponsor: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

An interdisciplinary team of engineers designed an ergonomic elephant anklet capable of transmitting behavioral pattern data to prevent poaching in protected reserves in Kenya.

Courtney Chase, an electrical and computer engineering student, designed and built a printed circuit board for collecting position and velocity information. 

She said connecting the battery, accelerometer and transmitter components allowed her to develop an immense amount of hardware knowledge she had not gained in her more theoretical coursework.

Mechanical engineering project lead Connor Martorana said SDSU facilities were integral to fabricating and testing the waterproof container for the data-monitoring equipment.

Using the Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering’s stress testing equipment, the team successfully demonstrated their anklet is capable of withstanding forces equivalent to an adult male elephant stepping on it without deforming.

“To get the opportunity to use a waterjet and use a CNC mill for this project, I mean, it’s just been really special,” Martorana said about using industry-level machinery. “I’m happy that I can now go into the workforce with not only the knowledge of what it is but how to use it.”

Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering

StoneCap Construction
Team Members: Samir Rahimi, Taylor Beans, James Snoke, Jordan Farrell
Advisor: Paul Jackson, SDSU
Sponsor: SDSU Planning, Design and Construction Department

If Snapdragon Stadium were to be built in the past year), construction costs would exceed the actual 2020 figures by nearly 40% more. StoneCap Construction, one of several teams of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering students, arrived at the estimated budgeting for a hypothetical construction plan of the stadium as part of their senior design project.

To estimate the cost of materials and labor and determine a construction timeline, the construction management majors applied their knowledge as some of the first students in the program, which began in 2021.

James Snoke said he appreciated having two semesters to work on the entire estimation process, compared to completing a similar task in two days during the Associated Schools of Construction competition in Reno, Nevada.

The skills gained from the senior design project and the construction management competition enabled Snoke and teammates to secure full-time employment immediately after graduation at leading firms such as McCarthy Building Companies, Swinerton, Goodfellow Bros., and Hensel Phelps.

“The mock Stadium project gave students the opportunity to work through the construction process from the feasibility study and early design to closeout,” said Paul Jackson, program manager for Planning, Construction and Design in SDSU Mission Valley. “The students were able to experience some of the tasks and roles they will perform day to day as they embark on their careers.” 

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