13 of the Most Forward-Thinking, Pioneering Engineering Students to Watch
Humans succeeded in dominating the planet because they could use tools. Tools inspired by an innovative approach to real-life problems gave rise to technology and soon we were able to do gigantic tasks at greater speed with high precision.
STEM was at the basis of it. The world is within our reach with modern communication systems and the Internet. The nanotechnology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence have made our world so much more comfortable, safe and convenient.
From among hundreds of thousand individuals working tirelessly to advance the technology further, we are presenting here 13 pioneering students and their contributions that are aimed to make this world a better place.
Tyler Gragg- 3D Printed Robotic Hand
This year's Honors Learning Experience of Kennesaw State University was marked by the presentation of a 3D printed Robotic Hand which mimics the action of the user's hand. The robotic hand was designed and developed by a pioneering engineering student Tyler Gragg, who is enrolled in Mechatronics Major and Honor program.
Tyler used a seemingly easy configuration of an Arduino microcontroller and flex sensors which instruct servo motors in a 3D printed hand to mirror the user's movement.
Gragg is also interested in autonomous underwater vehicles and holds a position in college AUV team. He aspires to be a research professor and further his studies in the field of mechatronics.
Team CERO- Tool for Spacewalks
Team CERO (an acronym name - Cutting, Extraction, and Retention Operations – based on their tool design) came up with a pen-shaped device, which can cut and retain zip tie. The device is compatible with bulky gloves and works on the manual power of a single hand. The device is intended to be used in spacewalks by astronauts.
The other members of the team include Daniel Vasek, Maria Gonzalez, Sean Palmer, Francesca Liso, and James Philippi. The zip tie cutter is in the testing phase and if things go well, the tool can be used in future NASA missions.
Skylar Jordan - Machine to Extract Water from Mars
NASA scientists are exploring Mars for human settlement and a team of young engineering undergraduates from the University of Tennessee is helping them dig the subsurface ice.
UT's 'This is not a drill' team is a finalist in NASA and NIA organized RASC-AL's Mars Ice Challenge. They got a chance to develop a probe to drill and melt ice on the Mars. The pioneering engineering team led by Skylar Jordan is mainly comprised of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering students who wish to be part of NASA someday.
The team is solving a real engineering application and their solution can be the part of NASA's conquest of the Mars.
Ondřej Vocílka- 3D Printed Eye Prosthesis
The ophthalmic prostheses manufactured all over the world are made of glass or acrylic and they do not even come close to looking real. Moreover, they are quite expensive and take hours to be manufactured.
Ondřej Vocílka, a pioneering mechanical engineer studying in VUT Brno, revolutionized the process by using 3D printers to develop eye prosthesis. Vocilka himself suffers eye disability.
He scanned existing prosthesis and printed it using photopolymer material. He used PolyJet technology to give prosthesis colors and texture.
Jonathan Claussen- Washable Electronics
Jonathan Claussen, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering and his team of researchers made a breakthrough in nanotechnology by producing water repellant electronics.
Claussen and his team used graphene -a strong heat and electricity conductor- as ink to print circuits over flexible printing surfaces. They developed a rapid-pulse laser for treating graphene and leaving the printing surface unscathed.
The aim is to make wearable and washable electronics which are resistant to biofouling and stains. Claussen is also involved in developing nanostructured materials for medical applications.
Shriya Srinivasan- Amputation Surgery for Prosthetics
The young PhD Candidate at Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology is focused on discovering new techniques for amputation surgery which will help patients to control their prosthesis with native neural signals.
Shriya is also exploring techniques to accelerate and improve neural regeneration. She has studied the efficacy of chemotherapeutics as well during her bachelors.
Shriya has been awarded Presidential Fellowship and many other accolades for her pioneering contribution in the field of medical engineering.
Andrey Vyatskikh- 3D Printing of Nanoscale Metal Structures
The recent accomplishment of Julia Greer and her student Andrey Vyatskikh at Caltech can be named one of the greatest breakthrough in additive manufacturing.
Different kinds of polymers and other materials were being 3D printed for a long time, but not so with metal structures. The size of nanoscale metal printing was constrained to about 60 microns.
Andrey bound organic ligands to metal and formed a dense liquid resin with metal in it. This resin, when treated with a laser, produced nanoscale metal structures.
This technology can help in creating very small scale structures which exhibit enhanced mechanical resilience, light trapping, and other fascinating properties.
Avishek Biswas- Special Purpose Chip for AI on Smartphones
The implementation of neural network systems in smartphones have been inefficient due to large power drain. The voice recognition, facial recognition programs are the main culprit behind increased power depletion in your smartphones.
A pioneering engineering student from MIT, Avishek Biswas took the challenge and came up with an innovative solution. He implemented dot-product functionality in memory to transforming the prevailing method of data transfer in chips.
This resulted in higher computation speed and very low power consumption. Biswas's design has attracted praise from tech giants like IBM.
Marjorie Pickard- SmartShirt to Regulate Heavy Lifting
University of Rhode Island student Marjorie Pickard and her team created a SmartShirt to detect improper lifting posture. The SmartShirt is tight fitting cotton blend equipped with sensors which read the movement of the spine and shoulder.
The sensors send signals to a microcontroller which analyze the movement and display result in a smartphone application. The Smartshirt is aimed to be used by weightlifters and factory workers to help them reduce chances of injury.
The SmartShirt has been lauded for advancing the use of wearable electronics and IoT.
Koray Aydin- Inverse Designed Broadband Metadevices
A team of electrical & computer science students and professors from Northwestern University proposed a revolutionary technology, which can have a far-reaching effect on telecommunications, defense, consumer products and many other fields.
The team applied principles of inverse design to 3D printing and created highly efficient broadband metadevices at millimeter-wave frequencies. The team claims that their technology is the next big thing in the manufacturing of electromagnetic devices.
Maria Gerardi- 3D Printed Prosthetic Hand
Hailey Dawson, a 7-year-old girl, got a chance to throw the opening pitch at World Series even without a right hand. This was made possible by Maria Gerardi, a UNLV student, who created a 3-D printed prosthesis for the little girl.
The prosthesis developed by Maria does not use electronics, but works with mere flexing and contracting of the undeveloped hand of the user. The prosthetic hand can easily grasp and hold objects.
Maria plans to make the hand more sophisticated so that it can perform more complex tasks, like writing.
Tianli Zhou- Vehicle Sharing Networks Design
Zhou is working on designing a better vehicle-sharing network for a sustainable transportation system. He envisions a vehicle sharing network which can replace public transportation system and cause a decline in privately-owned cars as well.
He is a PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Zhou collected the data on vehicle sharing with the help of Zipcar, a leading car-sharing service, and developed algorithms to make vehicle sharing more convenient.
He claims that optimized vehicle sharing services will not only help people commute faster and safely, but it will also foster environment conservation.
Michael Strano- Glowing Nanobionic Plants
An MIT professor Michael Strano along with his team made plants to glow. In a very charming demonstration, Strano presented illuminated watercress plants. He implanted luciferase, the enzyme fireflies use to glow, into plants with the help of millions of nanoparticles fed to the plants.
Strano explains that plants are energy powerhouse and this energy powers the enzyme and make it glow. This technique can be used on any kind of plant and with the right concentration of particles, a significant amount of light can be produced. Strano envisions glowing plants as a source of indoor and street lighting in the near future.
With many scientists still unhappy with the IAU's definition of "planet," it's possible the debate will never be resolved!