The annual Design of Engineering Systems course serves as a capstone learning experience for graduating seniors, giving them the opportunity to bring together three years of coursework into a single challenging design problem.
This year’s design projects, presented in December, included industry sponsored projects as well as challenging projects related to faculty research. The Union Pacific Railroad invited students to investigate the problem of scheduling trains along bidirectional tracks, where conflicts among trains passing track segments are a recurrent problem. This large-scale, complex project involved a massive amount of data from historical train schedules, says ISE assistant professor and project advisor W. Grace Guo.
“Using historical data the student team designed a simulation model that could be used to test rules to recover from delays and conflicts and the student team made recommendations for traffic control based on their analysis,” said Guo.
Another team, advised by ISE professor and department chair Mohsen Jafari, addressed the design of an energy smart community, one of the research thrusts of the ISE department. By instrumenting selected rooms in a building on campus, the team collected actual data on temperature, humidity, and occupancy usage using wireless sensors. This prototypical building was then used in a simulation model to show how renewable sources of energy can be connected with the electric grid and service buildings and associated electric vehicles.
“These senior design projects emulate what the students will face when they enter the practice of engineering,” said Thomas Boucher, industrial and systems engineering professor, who, along with Kang Li, department assistant professor, had overall supervision for the course.
“Although the students use much of what they have learned over the prior three years, they do not know everything that they have to know to solve the problems they encounter,” Boucher continued. “In most cases, the students are challenged with extending their knowledge in order to come to a final solution.”
“Finally, they have to present their solutions in a public forum where they are challenged by audience questions,” said Boucher. “When a student finishes the design course he or she knows how to present their ideas effectively.”