UMass Amherst Electrical and Computer Engineers Gather for Senior Design Project Day on Friday, May 9

AMHERST, Mass. – A wireless drumstick and a sensor that warns drivers of cars that are about to run a red light are just two of the projects to be displayed on Friday, May 9 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as the latest crop of talented students from the electrical and computer engineering department (ECE) display their senior projects.

The occasion is the 18th annual ECE Senior Design Project Day, with the creators and their heady creations on display at the Gunness Engineering Student Center in Marcus Hall from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Senior Design Project Day is a public review of 15 senior projects, where students display their inventions, explain them to visitors and demonstrate their functions.

“Senior Design Project Day is not only the culmination of what ECE students learn at UMass Amherst,” says T. Baird Soules, the department’s undergraduate program director, “but also the demonstration of broader skills, such as presentation, teamwork and budgeting.”

One senior project that could find a widespread market is the Wireless Drumstick, a prototype of a new musical instrument that mimics the drumming motion of a conventional drum kit and generates sounds wirelessly through a computer. The system consists of drumsticks with embedded accelerometers and a microcontroller. When hitting the drumsticks on a particular surface, impact data is measured and sent to the computer, where this information is interpreted and converted to a synthesizer signal. The system can distinguish between a number of different surfaces, and new ones can be taught to the system. The faculty mentor for this project is Marinos Vouvakis, and the team members are Adam Daniell, Seth Jackson, Eric Rebeiz and Eldad Tamman.

Team Pokerlyzer has built a system to help players calculate odds during a poker game. A computer vision system monitors which cards are on the table and transmits this information wirelessly. An embedded microcontroller receives this information, calculates odds and displays the information on a small graphical screen. The team is advised by faculty member Tilman Wolf. Team members include Neil Heymanns, Andrew Lapidas, Perry O’Hearn and Jason Small.

Another invention, called Crossroads, tracks the location and speed of a vehicle. When a vehicle approaches a known intersection, the system determines if the car can safely stop for a red light. If the car is about to run the red light, a warning is transmitted wirelessly to other cars in the area to inform them of the impending danger. A light on the dashboard and a warning sound relays this information to the driver. Team Crossroads members are Jarrod LaBarge, Daniel Marcq, Sean Morrell and Anthony Swochak, who were advised by faculty members Hossein Pishro-Nik and Daiheng Ni.

Inventions such as these serve as capstone projects for seniors in the ECE department. “The design project is as close as we can get to duplicating what these students will be doing in their professional lives,” says Christopher Hollot, head of the ECE department.