UTDesign Students Show Mettle in Winning National Title, Finishing Projects
A University of Texas at Dallas UTDesign senior capstone team won first place in the national Student Manufacturing Design Competition at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference for the sixth consecutive year. Another UT Dallas team was awarded second place in the national competition.
The first-place team designed a tool to help corporate sponsor Motorola Solutions in Allen, Texas, improve the assembly process for the in-car and body cameras it manufactures for law enforcement agencies.
The second-place team designed a device to assemble custom blister packs, a type of packaging for pills, for sponsor Klöckner Pentaplast in its Charlottesville, Virginia, location.
The honors continue UTDesign’s winning streak in a year when the capstone projects were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The national competition, usually held in June, was postponed until October and moved to a virtual format. Winners were announced in November.
“One thing that I found remarkable about both of these teams is that they completed their reports for the competition and submitted them last spring amid all the uncertainty just as the University was transitioning to online learning. I told the teams that we did not expect them to continue with the process, but both elected to go ahead.”
Dr. Robert Hart
UTDesign mechanical engineering faculty director in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science
Students, most of whom graduated in May, worked remotely to create presentations for the competition, said Dr. Robert Hart, associate professor of practice in mechanical engineering and UTDesign mechanical engineering faculty director in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
“One thing that I found remarkable about both of these teams is that they completed their reports for the competition and submitted them last spring amid all the uncertainty just as the University was transitioning to online learning,” Hart said. “I told the teams that we did not expect them to continue with the process, but both elected to go ahead.”
Motorola Solutions asked the UTDesign team to build a prototype of a semi-automated tool to help its employees align and focus the cameras during assembly. Leo Barajas BS’20, who organized the team for competition in the fall, said the project required a concrete understanding of optics, software and mechanical design.
“The team worked through many project challenges,” said James Hoglund, mechanical principal staff at Motorola Solutions. Barajas said he and his teammates spent long hours working on their solution, which was almost finished before the shutdown.
“We demanded the most from one another, and it prepared us for something nobody predicted — a global pandemic. The last three months took an adjustment, but that is what engineering is all about,” Barajas said.
“This win is important on a personal level, too, because I have not found a full-time job, like many other recent graduates, and that’s OK,” he said. “The year 2020 has taught us that so much is out of our control; however, there is still much to be thankful for. I have my health, a bachelor’s degree and a national championship!”
Other students on the team were Kori Harlan BS’20; Kristen Nguyen BS’20, the team’s leader; Jay An BS’20; Raziel Arroyo-Meza BS’20; and Ali Reza Ali Khan BS’20.
The second-place team designed a prototype packaging device that can count, sort, package and seal pills into a custom blister package. Sponsor Klöckner Pentaplast asked for the user-friendly device that gives pharmacies the ability to provide blister packaging for individual prescriptions.
“We had worked relentlessly through the 2019-20 design season to complete this project. Our team faced many difficult challenges and obstacles throughout the project, which lead to the cultivation of our growth and bonding as a team,” said Jason Kwan BS’20, who now works as an engineer at Samsung Austin Semicon-ductor. “I believe this is one of the most important experiences of the UTDesign program.”
Klöckner Pentaplast’s innovation team in Virginia worked with the student group remotely through the entire project, said Seth Stewart, manager of the company’s i.Center Services.
“Since we are not local, our project team had the unique challenge of all virtual interactions through the development process, but they did a great job communicating nonetheless, which turned out to be perfect preparation for the rest of 2020,” Stewart said.
In addition to Kwan, the team included Todd Deetjen BS’20, Naseem Knaish BS’20, Chase McDaniel BS’20, Mihir Nadig BS’20 and Ayah Al Rubaye BS’20.