ECE capstone projects featured by CDME

Posted: May 31, 2023


4 students standing in front of project

SCADA capstone group with their project

Students find real-world engineering projects challenging and fulfilling because they contribute to a real problem. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) funds capstone projects for senior students to get hands-on experience before graduation.

The ECE Senior Capstone Design program is a course divided into two semesters. Throughout the program, students learn about the engineering process, project management, risk analysis, customer needs, project requirements, rapid prototyping, testing and troubleshooting. The program is directed by ECE Assistant Professor Saeedeh Ziaeefard.

This past school year, two groups came to the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) to experience projects related to advanced manufacturing and industrial cybersecurity. CDME works to provide undergraduate students with hands-on experience with industry projects to provide them with the skills necessary for post-graduate employment. Partnering with ECE allowed capstone students to get experience with advanced manufacturing systems before entering the workforce. The ECE and CDME collaboration not only benefits the students by boosting their skills, but also shapes them into professionals ready to contribute to the workforce by working with innovative technology.

Four senior ECE students Jeffrey Hubbard, Matt Rowane, Paxton Murra and Tony Sheng, worked on a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) project for a machine at CDME to enhance electrical and computer engineering applications integrated with manufacturing. SCADA is a computer-based system for gathering and analyzing real-time data to monitor and control equipment that deals with critical and time-sensitive materials or events. With the growing surge in automation and robotics, the ability to understand, deploy and use a SCADA will be key skills for students to learn. The SCADA environment was purchased from funds from the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) grant for the establishment of cybersecurity hardware platforms for autonomous vehicles and manufacturing systems.

The capstone group set out to add the Fanuc Compact Machining Center (CNC) Robo Drill at CDME to the preexisting SCADA environment. The CNC Robo Drill is a high-precision machine that can quickly work out any milling, drilling or tapping jobs, but it did not have any system to collect data on its operations. Installing a SCADA system would allow for sensors to read data from the machine to keep it running correctly.

The team worked over two semesters to create a system that would collect data from the machine’s operations and share them to the cloud for monitoring. After months of designing, the team was able to connect five sensors to the Robo Drill, two current sensors to measure input current to the machine, a temperate sensor, a conductivity sensor and a vibration sensor. The sensors connect the drill to a programmable logic controller (PLC), which is an industrial computer that has been adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, that creates a dashboard with all the data from the sensors. Researchers at CDME would then use the information to predict machine failure, monitor regular operations and conduct preventative maintenance to keep the drill operational.

The project is considered an Industry 4.0 project, which is considered the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, including the rise of data and connectivity, analytics, human-machine interaction and improvements in robotics. Learning how to use such a complex system not only advances their technical skills but also encourages a profound understanding of the strategic advantages that these systems can bring to industrial operations. The knowledge and experience gained from this Industry 4.0 project are invaluable to students as they prepare to step into a career driven by the digitization of manufacturing, where data and connectivity, analytics, and human-machine interaction are crucial.

“Learning how to navigate the team dynamic has been really insightful,” said Jeffery Hubbard, team leader for the SCADA project. “Learning to delegate tasks and making sure we stick to deadlines has been particularly important. This has been quite different than a class project, but we had the opportunity to think creatively in a way we really have not been able before.”

group photo with R2D2

R2D2 Capstone group with their advisor and CDME sponsors

Another capstone project at CDME featured five ECE students who fabricated a life-size R2D2 robot assembly using primarily 3D-printed polymer-based parts and enabled it to move and make sounds using digital input from a reprogrammed video game controller. The project’s goal was to generate a functional demonstration of additively manufactured components into a recognizable embodiment to display the fabrication capabilities of the CDME Polymer Prototyping Lab.

The group, made up of Keshab Gautam, James Elliott, Luke Hudson, Isaac Lambert and Henry Liao, used CDME’s state-of-the-art polymer additive manufacturing systems to 3D print the components for the full-size model. The team used open-source design files to slice and print all the components, then assembled and painted the pieces to make it look like R2D2.

As a part of the assembly process, the group integrated custom-designed circuits with commercial-grade components to control the various motors that move the robot. Individual motors control the motion in the left and right foot assemblies, and a third motor controls the rotation of the head assembly compared to the cylindrical base. Sensors and speakers were added to enable the robot to make sounds when struck with a small impact force

The project did not come without difficulties, as the team originally looked to use a mobile-based app to control the robot’s actions and movements. After working on coding to control the movements and sounds with that app, the team realized it was not updated to run current software to communicate with the robot’s on-board circuitry modules.

After troubleshooting a few ideas, the team instead ended up creating code to connect the R2D2 to a video game controller. The controller allowed the team to command the robot’s movements, reactions, and sounds. The last step was to paint the R2D2, but instead of the classic colors, the team decided to colorize it using a scarlet and gray-based palette.

The CDME polymer additive manufacturing lab is now home to R2D2, where the center will show potential partners the program's capabilities.

Story from CDME

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