More Than 600 To Showcase Projects At MSU Design Day Friday

EAST LANSING — One of the senior design teams competing at this Friday’s Michigan State University College of Engineering Design Day had an inside track into knowing whether their capstone project would actually help the target market — the visually impaired.

Team member Jordyn Castor is blind.

The senior from Grand Rapids, who has been blind since birth — along with team members Debayan Deb of Kanpur, India; Whitney Mitchell of Alto; Max Miller of Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Cody Pearson of Hudsonville — are among the more than 600 engineering students participating in and vying for 13 top awards during Design Day on Friday, Dec. 11, from 8 a.m. to noon in the Engineering Building.

Castor said her group’s project is an app called Intelligent Real World Text Recognition.

Developed for use on Windows 10 devices (PCs, tablets, and cell phones), it uses the device’s camera to take a picture, recognize what it is, and then perform a task – like reading it out loud, which is particularly helpful for the visually impaired or someone learning to read. It is also helpful for anyone needing to collect and store information, like business cards.

Miller said the app scans the environment and captures text it can recognize. For instance, if the text is a phone number, one click and the app will call the number; or begin to compose an email, or search for a Twitter hashtag, or if the app recognizes a street address, it gives the address to Microsoft’s Bing Maps application.

“It has good accessibility for those who can’t see or those with a print disability,” Castor said. “There is good keyboard navigation, too. I use a keyboard rather than a mouse and it works very well.”

She continued: “One of its cool uses is it can read your receipt to you or help you with a menu in a restaurant. It helps with items like table tents that advertise things to do on campus. It provides access and information you wouldn’t otherwise have,” she added.

Fellow team member Deb said the app also offers long-term storage of data: “You can save the information on your device.”

Added Pearson, “and that’s whether it’s a phone, laptop, or saving it to the Cloud.”

The team originally got the idea from their corporate sponsor TechSmith, an Okemos company that is a leading developer of screen capture, video capture, and editing software.

Dean Craven is TechSmith’s chief technical officer.

“I often have an ulterior motive for projects,” Craven said. “I use the student teams to explore proof of concept ideas that I wish we could have our internal engineers exploring. The project this fall is a perfect example. At the end of the project we learn what the solution looks and feels like, what were the difficult parts, what are the technical limitations.”

Craven said sponsoring a Design Day team is part of a holistic approach to recruiting full time and intern software engineers at MSU.

“To compete for the best and brightest, you cannot just show up at career fairs,” Craven said. “You need to build awareness with things like project sponsorships, supporting student organizations, sponsoring hackathons, and having a strong intern program. It is also a way to support the computer science and engineering department that provides outstanding graduates year after year. We help provide the real world problem solving, project management, and client relationship that turns computer scientists into software engineers. It is also about being an industry partner that represents a Michigan-based ‘pure software company.’”

A video of the team is available at this link.

MSU computer science professor Wayne Dyksen, who is also Design Day executive director, said teams in Design Day also learn how to present their ideas to clients, defend their ideas and think on their feet. “Those are the skills they will need when they leave MSU and start their careers,” Dyksen said. “Deadlines for the projects also are very demanding. Milestones must be completed on time – and graduation hangs in the balance.”

Design Day is the culmination of the senior level capstone courses that are required for graduation from the College of Engineering. It showcases the outcomes of 15-week capstone courses, where students apply all the knowledge and experiences gained during their engineering education at MSU. Working in teams of four or five, seniors put their best efforts into solving real-world problems for big and small company sponsors. Teams present on the last day of classes each semester. Design Day is in its 22nd year. It was initiated in 1994 by the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Other Design Day highlights include:

• Michigan State University Shaw Lane Power Plant Renovation: Five teams from Civil Engineering 495 Senior Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering tackled a project that emphasizes implementation of green infrastructure in the Shaw Lane Power Plant renovation. The projects were prepared for submission in the Demonstration Project category of the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge. The EPA competition requires proof-of-concept level designs that examine how green infrastructure could be integrated into an on-campus site to meet multiple environmental, educational, and economic objectives.

• Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Luggage Tagging and Tracking: Team members Marwan Baraya of Lansing; Emmanuel Wadieh of Accra, Ghana; Brian Prange of Waterford; Henry Nguyen of Utica, N.Y.; and Ziye Xing of Sichuan, China, created an RFID luggage tagging and tracking project as part of Electrical and Computer Engineering 480. The team’s RFID reader is capable of scanning a single tag from up to five meters away and multiple tags over smaller distances. After scanning a tag, the reader adds the encoded information to a data base from which an airline or customer can retrieve information pertaining to a specific bag. By seamlessly reading this information from a tag, the location and status of a piece of luggage may be more easily processed and tracked.

• Herbert Darrow of Bangkok, Thailand; Quinn Putt of Greenville; Robert Warfield of Cement City; and Zach Abbott of Pittsburgh, Penn., created a greywater filtration device for irrigation in Kenya as part of the Mechanical Engineering 491 – Humanitarian Engineering. The filtration device was built from PVC, plastics, natural materials, and other common supplies. The clean filtered water will be fed to a drip irrigation system.

Friday’s design day by the numbers:

• 141 teams
• 602 students

Capstone projects represent:
• 245 students
• 48 teams
• 44 projects
• 82 percent of projects sponsored by Michigan-based companies and institutions

Pre-College Outreach programs include:
• 5 schools
• 20 teachers
• 200 students from 9-12 grades

Design Day Awards:
• 13 awards conferred to top Design Day teams
• Judges include faculty and corporate representatives
• Some winning teams receive cash awards or advance to national competitions

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