Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Design Project Day at UMass Amherst is April 20

AMHERST, Mass. - The annual Senior Design Project Day at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will feature 20 electronic inventions produced by seniors in electrical and computer engineering (ECE). The event is Friday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gunness Engineering Student Center and in Room M5 in Marcus Hall.

This year’s inventions include devices that help special needs students perform everyday activities, teach sign language electronically, monitor vital safety factors for firefighters, and make drivers aware of pedestrians and cyclists in the road.

The Senior Design Project provides a capstone experience for undergraduates in electrical and computer engineering. Students work in teams of four during a year-long course to design and build systems of their own conception. Each team is advised by a faculty member.

"The Senior Design Project is not only the culminating project in the ECE curriculum, it is also where students broaden their skill base by making presentations, working in teams and staying within their budgets," says T. Baird Soules, the department’s undergraduate program director.

Two of the projects have been formulated with the help of a special education teacher from West Springfield schools. "The projects have been designed to assist special needs students in the teacher’s class perform activities such as tuning a radio and brushing their teeth," says ECE faculty course coordinator Russell Tessier.

Another project is an electronic device that helps students learn and communicate with American Sign Language. The system tracks upper body and finger motions. When a word is pronounced by a user, it searches its database to find the corresponding motion in sign language and the word is displayed on a monitor.

Yet another gives drivers a new way to be aware of cyclists and pedestrians. Cars equipped with this system sense cyclists or pedestrians before they are in line-of-sight, no matter how poor the visibility. The pedestrian or cyclist wears a small inexpensive device that transmits his or her location to a module in the automobile which alerts the driver in a small display on the windshield.

One other device has sensors in a firefighter’s gear to monitor vital information such as temperature inside and outside the suit, heart rate and oxygen tank levels. Signals from these sensors are transmitted by radio waves to a central command center where they can be reviewed and acted upon by a fire chief or some other safety officer.