APRIL 22, 2022 — Ingenuity was on display in the UTSA Convocation Center yesterday as more than 400 undergraduate engineering students presented their work at the Spring 2022 Tech Symposium.
Hosted by the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design at UTSA, the Tech Symposium highlighted a culmination of engineering curricula, with students challenged to apply their skills and knowledge to solve real-world problems.
The Tech Symposium teams work together throughout their final year of study to identify a problem and to plan and develop a prototype or system that can address it. In the first semester of this process, the undergraduate students are enrolled in Senior Design I and are required to present a poster highlighting their chosen issue and a concept of how to address it.
In the second semester, the students enroll in Senior Design II and are expected to present working prototypes and/or completed processes. Of this semester’s 100+ project teams, roughly 70 were enrolled in Senior Design II and the remaining 30 in Senior Design I.
It is typical for each team to spend roughly 800 hours honing their projects over the course of the process. For many, much of this time is spent using the tools and technology available in UTSA’s state-of-the-art, 17,000-square-foot Makerspace, located in the Science and Engineering Building.
“Our students work tirelessly to turn their ideas into a reality,” said Don Petersen, the college’s director of engineering, innovation and design. “It’s not at all unusual to see students working late into the night or through weekends to ensure their prototypes are of high standard and function well. It’s always great to see the students grow and flourish as they sharpen their skills and ply the knowledge from the classroom to create truly inspiring results.”
Many of this semester’s projects were completed in conjunction with and funded by local businesses including grocery retailer H-E-B, the San Antonio Water System and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). In all, more than 30 organizations sponsored a Tech Symposium project this semester.
One such project was an Advanced Mobility Crawler, produced by team Expedient Designs. The team of mechanical engineering majors—Bosco Madassery, Tally Barnes, Evan Forester and Garrett Parker—worked with SwRI to develop a remote-controlled vehicle that could navigate tight spaces and conduct maintenance in the hulls of naval vessels.
“We’re proud to have developed this proof of concept for SwRI,” said Forester. “Now that we’ve demonstrated the baseline possibilities, the team at SwRI will be able to build upon our prototype and may end up commercializing the technology.”
Forty-three industry leaders volunteered their time to judge entrants’ projects, with a total of $12,000 in cash prizes awarded to those determined to be standouts. Senior Design II projects were awarded $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000 for first, second and third place, respectively. Senior Design I projects considered to be the best three entrants were each awarded $1,000 in prize money. Cash prizes were generously funded by George Karutz and Bill Balthrope.
“The Tech Symposium is the highlight of these students’ careers to this point,” said Karutz. “I met many incredible young people with great attitudes who are the future of this country. It’s inspiring to see their abilities and the process of defining and executing their projects is of tremendous value to their professional development.”
Karutz added that the Tech Symposium benefitted from the momentum of the Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, and UTSA more broadly. He singled out JoAnn Browning, dean of the college, and Jill Ford, assistant dean and director of Student Success, for their dedication to the students who take part in this event.
“Their hard work in strategically aligning curricula and student development is paying dividends, resulting in an excellent student experience that sets Roadrunners up for success,” he said. “Add to that UTSA’s recent Carnegie R1 designation and the cutting-edge facilities such as the Makerspace and it’s clear to see the value of an engineering degree at UTSA.”
The Backpack, a team of biomedical engineering students including Garrett Fernandez, Ashley Ridout, Lizet Rojas and Kayla Ruiz took this semester’s Senior Design II $4,000 top prize. Working with San Antonio-based NVision Biomedical, they developed a magnet-based disc replacement mechanism to assist those suffering from degeneration of their spinal discs.
Electrical/computer engineering team Percep Tech took second place with a product that uses multiple sensors to more accurately diagnose concussions. Third place was awarded to Modifly, a team of electrical/computer engineering students that developed a modular drone that can easily be adjusted by the user.
Senior Design I awardees included Rotor Coders, Vektor Intrepid and VMR Squared.
“The Tech Symposium is always a highlight of the semester,” Browning said. “We develop each of our curricula to ensure all students are afforded opportunities to engage in hands-on, experiential learning beyond the classroom and Tech Symposium is one of our major outlets for that. Without fail, I am always impressed by the amazing projects our students deliver.”
Ford added, “We had a great day. Our students put lots of time and effort into their projects, and it’s always rewarding to see the culmination at the Tech Symposium. Congratulations to all of the teams involved.”
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