May 04, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Senior engineers are doing a lot of fine-tuning (and snacking) as they get ready for their annual design showcase.

In every cubicle in both wings of the engineering building are senior design prototypes in various stages of completion:

There is a touch-screen user interface imbedded into a coffee table.

There is a robot to rescue victims of collapsed buildings and two other robots for use in libraries: one scans a shelf of library books to check for books out of order and the other takes books out of a library bin and puts them on carts.

There are pieces of reinforced concrete walls intended for earthquake-proof homes in Haiti.

There is a head-mounted display (HMD) simulation system that immerses a user in a virtual environment.

There is an alternative farming solutions vehicle and an aerodynamic, high-fuel efficiency vehicle and an apparatus for pulling water out of the air (an atmospheric water generator). 

Watch video demo of "Alternative Farming Solutions"

Mixed in with the prototypes are designs for a future football stadium at Calvin, a drainage basin on Whiskey Creek, an elevated water-storage reservoir and distribution system for a village in Ecuador, a process for using ultraviolet disinfection on a water supply and three methods (by three different teams) for producing clean coal.

“Two semesters of hard work and dedication have culminated into some amazing projects,” said engineering professor Steve Vander Leest. “Beyond the really obvious prototypes, there is months of really significant design work.”

Each project represents a year of brainstorming, research, planning, constructing, critiquing and reviewing by one of Calvin’s 16 senior design teams—composed of civil and environmental, chemical, electrical and computer and mechanical engineering concentrators. The engineering teams will showcase the projects at the 28th-annual Senior Design Banquet and Projects Night, held Saturday, May 5, 2012.

The event will kick off with the traditional engineering Open House, held from 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the two wings of the engineering building. Students, faculty, staff and family and friends of the engineers can view the senior design projects and ask questions of the senior designers. From 7:30 through 9 p.m., the students will give  formal presentations of their projects in various lecture halls around campus.

Watch video demo of "The Untouchables"

In the buildup to the May 5 event, the students are spending a lot of time in their design cubicles, spray painting and tweaking and fixing and fine-tuning their prototypes. It can mean a lot of late nights, admitted Theo Voss, an electrical and computer concentrator on Team Return. “If we didn’t have a big deadline and huge project to finish, we would be fine with it,” Voss joked.

The long work sessions can also mean a lot of snack consumption. Mixed among the spare parts in the cubicle Team Supermileage calls home were bags of pretzels and Cheez-Its, cartons of Cheddar Goldfish and a box of Krispy Crème Donuts. “We have the most spouses-slash-fiancees,” explained 23-year-old mechanical concentrator Jon Hoffman.

Senior design’s final push is an annual ritual, said Vander Leest:  “It seems as though it couldn’t possibly happen, and then it seems to mysteriously come together,” he said. “It’s a fun time for students and faculty.”

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