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The eight-semester design sequence is intended to motivate and tie together a student's engineering education, supported by a comprehensive foundation in the physical sciences and mathematics, a broad range of multidisciplinary engineering science, and the rich heritage of the humanities and social sciences of the common curriculum.
The water balloon launcher has become the standard design project for ENGR 1382, Engineering Analysis and Design II. Groups of students design a device that will accurately launch a water balloon over a 50-yard range to a 10-foot horizontal square target. The best performing design is determined through a friendly competition in which two groups launch balloons at the other's target. The group that scores the most "hits" within a specified time advances to the next level of competition until all but one group is eliminated.
This project, originated by professor Richard Swope, was initially conducted during the 1982 spring semester. At its inception, the project's goal was to design a launcher that, when placed on the goal line of the football field, could launch a balloon through a large hoop on the five-yard line, another large hoop on the 45-yard line, and hit Swope standing on the 50-yard line. The team that could hit Swope two out of five times received an automatic A for the course. The project received national press coverage during the eight-year period that Swope taught the course.
Sophomore Design (ENGR 2181/82) involves service learning projects. Students go to different community organizations and design objects or devices that will be used by members or clients of the organization. Organizations have included a "LifeStrides" classroom and a local chapter of Goodwill.
For a "LifeStrides" classroom at Houston High School, the class designed a suspension device that permits a developmentally disabled student to be suspended in an upright position so that he or she can initiate motion and interact with their environment.
Teamed with a local chapter of Goodwill, the class designed accommodations for grounds maintenance equipment that permit physically disabled people to use equipment like lawnmowers and string trimmers. The project enabled Goodwill to expand job opportunities for the physically disabled. In May 2008, one of the accommodations developed by a sophomore design team won third place in the NISH National Scholar Award Competition. Local media coverage of Trinity's award was provided by the San Antonio Express-News, KABB FOX 29, as well as Trinity's public relations office.
The first semester junior design project (ENGR 3181) involves the design of a traffic light controller for a major intersection using FPGAs (Altera development tools). Students work individually to design, build, and test their controller; they also discuss and incorporate real-life constraints, such as the need to give access to emergency vehicles. The second semester project (ENGR 3182) emphasizes deconstruction of an appliance, analysis of the appliance's necessary design criteria, testing, and design improvement.
Senior design groups undertake a year-long capstone design project in consultation with a faculty adviser. Students have the option of proposing their own senior design projects or working with faculty or industrial advisers on an existing proposal. Student groups spend the fall analyzing the needs of the client/problem, setting and analyzing criteria for a successful project, investigating alternative solutions, and refining their optimal design. The spring is spent implementing, testing, and refining the design.
Some examples of recent projects are:
The project, a national competition winner, involved designing and constructing a home vital signs monitoring system that is non-invasive, accessible, safe, and accurate. Students were active in all phases of the project, from the initial research stage, ordering of parts, and construction of the case, to coding for the project and final human testing. Students noted room for improvement in a few places with regard to the functionality and usability of the device and were able to improve the design based on user feedback.
A group designed and built a system to capture and store rainwater for use in landscaping and garden watering during periods of drought.
A team, sponsored by the Texas Space Grant Design Challenge, analyzed the mission requirements for a two-person manned rover on Mars, including command and control, payload, power and communications budgets, and locomotion. The group designed and constructed a 1:6 scale rover model, tested the model (in Earth gravity), then scaled the results to a full-scale rover in Martian gravity. The results of this project were disseminated at two state-wide showcases in Houston.
This group designed and built a line-following robot that could navigate an electrical-tape course, recognize and follow direction markings, and locate and retrieve "radioactive waste" (colored soda cans), while avoiding "factory workers" (Barbie dolls) on the course. This group took second place in the IEEE Region 5 Competition.