LSU engineering student showcase projects at exhibition

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Associate Dean of  LSU's College of Engineering Warren Waggenspack holds a model of the remotely operated vehicle seen in the background during the Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design exhibition held at Patrick F. Taylor Hall Friday.  Students, from left, Chase Corte, Peter Tran, and Benjamin Ewing, as well as Taylor Graham (not pictured), were sponsored by the Subsea Tieback Foundation, to create a second generation of underwater vehicle, which will be used to show children how math and sciences can be applied in interesting ways. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Associate Dean of LSU's College of Engineering Warren Waggenspack holds a model of the remotely operated vehicle seen in the background during the Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design exhibition held at Patrick F. Taylor Hall Friday. Students, from left, Chase Corte, Peter Tran, and Benjamin Ewing, as well as Taylor Graham (not pictured), were sponsored by the Subsea Tieback Foundation, to create a second generation of underwater vehicle, which will be used to show children how math and sciences can be applied in interesting ways.

Watching as they let people remotely steer an underwater vehicle they’d created around a water-filled tank, a team of LSU engineering students showcased what they had spent a year designing and building.

The students explained how their sponsor, Subsea Tieback Foundation, plans to use their demonstration vehicle to get high school students excited about subsea engineering.

“Their main goal is to support the subsea industry,” team member Taylor Graham, 23, said.

The large water tank, built by a previous year’s team and mounted on a trailer, also allows those operating the undewater vehicle to test their dexterity by trying to pick up an item and place it with precision.

The biggest challenge to the project? Water.

“Water and electronics don’t mix,” Graham said.

The project was one of many showcased Friday at LSU as part of the Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design exhibition. It’s the culmination for these graduating seniors of a year’s worth of work.

Dimitris Nikitopoulos, associate professor and one of the program’s advisers, said this year’s event was the largest ever, with 33 projects involving 132 students.

Although the students are required to have a working prototype by the end of the program, there are failures sometimes.

“Sometimes you learn more from your failures than success,” Nikitopoulos said, but students need to be able to point out how they learned from the experience.

While it’s a lot of work for the students and the three advisers who work with the students, he said, it does provide graduates with real work experience.

In another area, team members showed the work they did to build a large scale remote control airplane they entered into the Society of Automotive Engineers Aero Competition held in Texas in March.

The plane had to be built to rigorous specifications including weight restrictions, size limitations, the use of a provided engine and a specific fuel, said team member Jordan Auxt, 22.

The biggest challenge team members said they faced in building the project was lack of experience since there are relatively few aeronautic classes at LSU.

They also found at the international competition that they were by far the smallest team, with just six members.

Some teams they competed against had 40 members and had started construction on their projects months before the LSU team started their’s in the fall.

It was a learning experience all the way around, they said.

“Our first flight, it took off, did a loop de loop and landed on its tail,” team member Derry VanZandt, 22, said. “We rebuilt it like three times.”

In another project, students designed and built a solar-powered icemaker that not only would make 10 pounds of ice every eight hours just on solar power, but also had a filter mechanism to take out bacteria and other contaminants.

Lance Schnauder, 24, said the idea is that it could be used for third-world relief efforts or after natural disasters when ice can be hard to come by — or even for tailgating. The device can be broken down to be carried by two people and then set up to either run on solar or on electricity.

“This was a proof of concept that actually works,” he said.

The team members were happy enough with their results that they’re talked about sponsoring an LSU team in next year’s senior class to continue to refine the project, Schnauder said.