I took a break in the middle of the afternoon to head to our local college, Colorado State University, for a show-and-tell of projects by fourth-year-undergraduate engineering students. It was a delight to see what engineering students exercise their brain cells on nowadays. A sampling of some of the projects:
- A kayak water park along the Poudre River near Shields St. It would be fantastic for water enthusiasts if Fort Collins had one of these (Boulder already does). The analysis projected something like a $250,000 cost and making a small-scale model of the flumes.
- A whitewater rapids park a little further west along Taft Hill Rd. This would include a provision for parking and modification of the shoreline to manipulate flow. It was projected to be more costly than the kayak water park proposed by the other group.
- A way to measure light with a wavelength just below that of ultra-violet light. The person who did this project was excited that it involved physics and mechanical engineering, but had a hard time conveying the usefulness or potential applications of this to me.
- A dog collar that could measure the skin temperature of a dog and warn you if the dog was overheating. It sounded like a good idea, but the prototype was not quite complete or required refinement to be useful.
- A method to speed up and conserve battery life of a smart phone by outsourcing processor-hungry tasks to the cloud (instead of doing them on the phone). Sounded like a good idea, but the project wasn’t far enough along to give concrete examples and estimate power savings. One reason for this was the group did not have much hardware to be able to test.
- An algorithm to predict the stock market and individual stocks. The group showed me a lot of graphs, but ultimately all I really cared about was what was its success rate at prediction. “Just under 50%,” I was told. Might as well just flip a coin…
- A new method to create biodiesel from algae that was supposedly a lot less costly than today’s methods. (Still a lot more costly than creating conventional diesel, however.)
- Designing a lighting system for a big office using low voltage and LED lights. Included where to situate the lights for best reflection and least glare.
- Electricity-producing wind turbines used in place of the smoke-stack chimneys on historic offices in downtown Fort Collins. Included cost analysis, how much power could be produced, and even a Finite Element Analysis on the turbines using Pro/Engineer software.
I came out of the showcase feeling energized by all the ideas and hard work put into the projects, even if some of them weren’t ready for market yet or needed more refinement. Good job, students!