Ryan Chartrand

Ever seen a portable rocket launcher? What about a way for quadriplegics to bowl? The College of Engineering displayed these and more at their Senior Design Expo Thursday at the Bonderson Projects Center on campus.

The college showcased 50 projects from 170 graduating students in the fields of biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer engineering.

Many of the projects were inspired by “service learning” and sought ways to improve the local community, service organization and the disabled.

Projects included attachments to wheelchairs that allow disabled people to participate in sports; a cheaper way to mount solar panels on rooftops; a rowing machine that can power a grid; and a Red Cross trailer outfitted for use as communication headquarters during disasters that can remain cool despite running a bevy of equipment.

Also featured was a napkin roll device designed to aid disabled workers in the hospitality industry, which was a winner of a $20,000 NISH National Scholar Award, and interactive displays for San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum; other highlights included a compact, portable massage chair and a universal dynamometer to measure torque and RPMs, from which engine power can be calculated.

The senior projects represented the peak of students’ undergraduate careers and two quarters worth of work.

“Last quarter we designed it, and that took 200 or 300 hours. This quarter it was over 200 hours of manufacturing between the three of us,” said mechanical engineering senior Lauren Nelson. Her team created a wheelchair attachment that allows disabled individuals to aim and throw a Frisbee.

Despite the excessive amounts of work involved in the projects, the expo provided students a chance to show their final projects and get feedback from onlookers.

“It’s great, all the people talking to you and complimenting you, the comments and everything,” said Joey Uhlich, a mechanical engineering senior with an emphasis in mechatronics.

Along with two other students, Ulhich created a portable launch tower for a rocket being designed by an engineering graduate student.

According to a press release, senior projects are sponsored by non-profits such as the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum and VTC, a service provider for people with disabilities in the Santa Maria area; local businesses including AeroMech and Slime; and national corporations such as Raytheon, Parker Hannifin and Teradyne.

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